The outdoor industry comes in from the cold

The outdoor industry has come a long way in the past few years. Media owners have worked together to improve the sector and make it a viable alternative to television and press advertising, says David Pugh. David Pugh is commercial director of

It is the orthodox view in media circles that the RAB has revolutionised the radio industry and that the press, TV and outdoor sectors would benefit from following suit.

A Poster Advertising Bureau would extend the profile of posters and help to overcome agency time problems: how many media owners do you want to see in a week? But I believe a bureau will not be necessary if the poster industry exploits the routes it is currently pursuing.

The fact is, in any media market you need strong media owners to create advertising products that drive the medium forward. Although the RAB is a professional outfit, without dynamic management at a range of stations and the advent of national stations, the radio industry would not have enjoyed its recent growth.

In posters, two similar factors have fuelled our 15 per cent growth rate and brought in new brands such as Colgate, Marks & Spencer and Dairy Crest. The emergence of five strong professional media owners (Maiden, Mills & Allen, J C Decaux, TDI and More Group) is key. In our separate ways we have developed better poster products for advertisers to buy, investing heavily in high quality sites and constructing visible campaigns that are easier to plan and buy. Without this investment, which is increasing year by year, there wouldn’t be a medium to market.

Postar is the other critical factor that has driven the industry forward. It is not only state-of-the-art media research which helps to make poster advertising more definable and accountable; it is also a process which demonstrates our growing maturity. Buyers and sellers sit around the same boardroom table to improve the value and accountability of the medium. Watch this space for the Madrid conference this September.

There is a third factor, which is not in evidence in other media markets. Some of the media owners are taking the view that there are occasions when it makes more sense to work together than automatically to rubbish the competition. That is why you will find my company working with four competitors on a bar-coding system which will prove that posters go up on a wet Wednesday morning in Sheffield.

We are also one of five companies collaborating on a scheme to give free 48-sheet posters to new advertisers who demonstrate a potential commitment to the medium. Mills & Allen could have done this alone, but we wouldn’t have achieved the same level of publicity. In reality, most advertisers buy from a range of poster companies.

The leading companies in outdoor all have a marketing-centred approach. Although this is usually focused on creating distinct advantage against direct rivals, we are not blind to the occasions when we should work together to steal revenue from other media.

If we keep up this flexible, three-tiered approach, we will continue to command attention and grow without the overheads of a Poster Advertising Bureau. After all, life’s too short to sit on (any more) committees.

Anyway, I may be wrong to ascribe the current impressive growth in poster advertising and the influx of new clients to any of the initiatives that poster companies are taking. Just as in newspapers and radio, the creative “x” factor is critical. A new generation of creatives are discovering that not only are posters effective, they are also fun to do. In the end, not just at election time, the effectiveness of posters means that they often sell themselves.


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