Further steady growth points to healthy future for great outdoors

Influential sectors are throwing their considerable advertising weight behind the rising profile of outdoor media and aiding growth, explains Mike Baker

Outdoor turned in ten per cent growth again for 2003 and is enjoying a steadily increasing share of the UK advertising market. So why is it growing and what’s in it for advertisers? The answer to the first question is: more investment, better plant and a wider choice of opportunities to reach a growing-quality audience.

As for advertisers, if we look back at 2003, some clues can be found in the ten or so categories that spend more than average on outdoor.

The big-brand spenders and traditional supporters of outdoor – the drinks and motor sectors – have crucial seasonal sales peaks and need a big spike in advertising awareness to drive those sales.

Then there’s the glamour pairing of fashion with cosmetics and toiletries companies, whose envy-inducing gear is best put on show where it can make a big visual splash among young consumers.

The same could be said of mobile phones, a very news- and launch-driven sector where outdoor use of the product drives its outdoor media profile. In travel, too, outdoor advertisers target consumers who are out and about a lot, and who are prime candidates for going even further afield by cruise ship, plane or train. So far, so logical.

The others are an interesting bunch for different reasons. Top of the tree is entertainment and media, where the fleeting nature of the offer (be it a book, a film or a new series on Channel 4) frequently makes for a big one-off launch occasion. And outdoor is the very stuff of launches.

Then there’s government, with its hugely diverse set of messages, from flu jabs to navy recruitment. The appeal of outdoor lies in achieving maximum value and broadcast coverage for such medium-sized budgets.

Next up is online retail. Although small, this sector has found a value in channelling its messages through outdoor for everything from grocery delivery to online casinos. The busy and elusive nature of this sector’s upmarket customers may be the driver of this trend. Household stores, historically lower users of outdoor, have recently been given a galvanising boost by the improving retail point-of-purchase sector. And finally food advertisers, especially of confectionery, ice-cream and convenience foods, use outdoor to encourage impulse buys.

These high-spending and attractive sectors that make up the bedrock of outdoor advertising spell a healthy future for the medium.

From this mix of categories and motivations, we can even draw media planning truths or trends. If you’re holding a launch or are targeting young consumers or upscale light-television viewers, if impulse buys or out-of-home product consumption are important, outdoor should be on your list of media priorities.

Outdoor also suits highly competitive sectors in which a brand name-check, visual image or product packshot are important stimuli to a sale.

The planning motivations may be many and varied, but they all seem to point in the direction of further outdoor growth.

Mike Baker is European marketing director of Viacom Outdoor

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