Another milestone in sight as the great outdoor marches onwards

As outdoor’s share of the advertising market approaches ten per cent, new sectors such as digital and retail should keep it growing, says Nigel Mansell

Outdoor media now account for 9.7 per cent of total display advertising spend in the UK, and with a strong forward market, the popular thinking is that come the Barcelona Outdoor conference in September, outdoor will have breezed past the golden goal of ten per cent.

From five per cent to ten per cent in a little over ten years is incredible – but how on earth can the industry maintain such rapid growth? Will outdoor, once past the ten per cent mark, plateau?

Fat chance. Rather than showing signs of cooling off, outdoor just keeps getting hotter. While ITV remains in turmoil and the radio waves are becalmed, outdoor is set to become increasingly strong. The thrust of growth will come from within the industry: the Outdoor Advertising Association is firing on all cylinders in promoting the sector, and outdoor specialists and contractors alike are ramping up their efforts to deliver greater effectiveness.

Where once it was a medium with a dearth of any credible research, outdoor is becoming one of the most researched. We can now drill deep into a wealth of data to find out what works best at format, category, region, and even demographic level.

But the topics grabbing the headlines are the ones that are likely to have the most visible effect on the medium over the next five to ten years – digital outdoor and retail media. With second-generation digital networks in place and securing new revenue for the medium – after a bumpy start with the collapse of Viacom’s XTP (MW May 16, 2002) – this sector is starting to rocket.

It has been led by Maiden’s Transvision digital network at key rail termini; other schemes include I-VU’s screens in salons and Avanti’s screens in pubs and clubs. Digital posters, such as Viacom’s new Hypertag system on the London Underground, also offer an increasing degree of interactive capability. All this is providing advertisers with something completely new, and extending the range of the medium well beyond its paste-and-paper heritage.

The newest kid on the block, Tesco TV – aka JC Decaux Retail – spans both digital and retail arenas. Ever since then-Nestlé Rowntree marketing director Andrew Harrison proclaimed the virtues of retail media, pointing out that supermarkets reach 75 per cent of households every week, the sector has been a hive of activity. Retailers of every shape and size have woken up to the idea of in-store advertising. After all, an ad in the aisle five feet from the stock on the shelf can be a very compelling proposition.

The best news for outdoor, though, is that retail media budgets are more often than not coming from clients’ trade budgets. Add to this the fact that overall site presentation has never looked so good, and it looks as if outdoor will keep going from strength to strength.

Nigel Mansell is chief executive of Concord

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