Will airports demonstrate decline of six-sheets is far from terminal?

Outdoor company JC Decaux has added 250 six-sheet poster sites to its airport portfolio (MW last week) at a time when some industry experts are raising doubts about the future of six-sheets.

JC Decaux says the move is designed to attract more packaged goods brands, such as Coca-Cola, but many observers argue that the six-sheet market is becoming saturated.

One insider claims it is oversubscribed by 20% and another adds: “Six-sheets are struggling badly. When things were going well, people developed too many of them.”

But JC Decaux Airport’s marketing director Richard Malton defends the move. “Airport is a slightly different market. If you want to get into airports on a short-term basis you need digital and six-sheets,” he says.

Poster specialist IPM’s managing director Roy Jeans believes the struggle is cyclical: “I don’t think the medium is dead, it’s just having a rest. It needs to pause for breath before it moves to the next stage.”

The situation is similar to that of 48-sheets a year ago. When the value of the sites went down, the industry was forced to take out the less effective ones and invest in the medium.

An insider says: “Buyers and sellers need to be more rigorous about what gets built and what gets bought. I think there has been a degree of over-development of panels that are lower quality than one would like.”

Six-sheets are a huge profit-maker in the out-of-home industry, worth £250m a year. In 2007, growth of 4% was in line with market expectations. A slight dip in fourth-quarter revenues, however, showed that action is needed.

JC Decaux sales director Spencer Berwin thinks the sector could be one of the biggest growth areas for the industry. But he admits there are issues with the effectiveness of some panels.

Parallel panelsBerwin explains that research has shown head-on road panels are more effective than parallel panels in targeting consumers in cars. But he argues: “I would say that there is a lot more that can be done.”

Out-of-home planning and buying agency Kinetic’s UK client development director James Copley says six-sheets are an “exceptionally strong product”.

But he admits there has been a concentrated effort to “highlight the benefits” of six-sheets. “People across the industry have acknowledged that six-sheets need reasserting.”

Jeans agrees, adding: “There has been a price expectation in the market over the past couple of years. We know that contractors and specialists are now all individually making efforts to market the power of six-sheets.”

Copley says Kinetic is promoting the “classic benefits” of the medium to clients. “They are illuminated behind glass and are like the outside back cover of Vogue in terms of representation,” he adds.

Interactive adsCopley cites Nokia’s interactive ads as an example. However, he admits interactive posters – such as those with touch screens and Bluetooth – are costly in comparison to the basic offering.

The six-sheet market may not be dead but it is going through a challenging period. It is up to the key players to highlight the value of six-sheets to advertisers – without overusing the medium – to ensure they remain an effective marketing tool.

Kate O’Flaherty

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