Runaway outdoor needs a European policeman

As outdoor clients demand increasingly pan-European campaigns, the need for a continental version of Postar is becoming all too apparent.

The news that Poster Publicity is to pull together its UK and international departments in London to serve the increasingly pan-European needs of its clients – such as Barclays Bank, Philip Morris, Benetton and Vodafone – contrasts sharply with recent events at ITV.

The TV network is likely to witness huge consolidation – the collapse of the Carlton and United News & Media merger notwithstanding – while the outdoor sector grows and expands. Who would have thought it?

Meanwhile, many long-standing ITV clients have been in uproar about the media inflation that has resulted from the network’s new adventures.

The cost of ads has increased by 32 per cent from 1996 to 2000. Mushrooming costs are forcing many brand owners to use TV as a tactical medium and driving them towards other media, increasingly outdoor.

Posters are becoming the medium of choice – a fact that has not been lost on Poster Publicity’s management .

Yet, as clients start to consider European, and even global, outdoor opportunities, one major obstacle stands in their way: a good, professional policeman.

Poster Publicity can play that role and seems to be the leader of the pack in terms of international development. But in this brave new poster world, the question is: who is going to police the policeman?

In the UK, we have a recognised measurement system in the form of Postar, which is funded jointly by outdoor contractors and specialists. In general, the UK outdoor industry subscribes to the notion of fair play, although some media owners have to be led there kicking and screaming. Whether things are as above board and well-organised elsewhere is open for debate.

If you think some of UK outdoor’s hoarding products look a bit tatty, when did you last see a hoarding in France or Spain that impressed?

Which makes the need for a pan-European version of Postar all the more urgent. And advertisers should be shouting the loudest for its creation.

The outdoor industry on the continent could easily afford scientific panel classification and audience evaluation, although I suspect contractors and agents may wish to provide their own brand of evaluation.

The truth is there is no substitute for media research, particularly in outdoor and in countries where companies have considerably less idea about good professional conduct than they do in the UK.

Clients will, of course, have to foot the bill if such a body is created, but it is a small price to pay. The whole industry will reap the benefits of unimpeachable measurement systems.

Richard Holliday is chief executive of Firstlight and a former managing director of Postar

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