Double Standards - Were the Olympic Games a success for outdoor?

campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 06 September 2012 08:00AM

Despite the lower-than-expected adspend, London 2012 provided a boost for the outdoor industry and saw some innovative creations, two experts argue.

Jason Cotterrell, country director, UK, CBS Outdoor

Jason Cotterrell, country director, UK, CBS Outdoor

JASON COTTERRELL, COUNTRY DIRECTOR, UK, CBS OUTDOOR

- The advertising industry has spent the past four years gearing up for the Olympics. Was it worth it?

Absolutely. The Olympic and Paralympic Games have provided an unprecedented opportunity to showcase the power of outdoor advertising - both in the run-up to London 2012 and during the events themselves. Clients took full advantage of the breadth of innovative and flexible formats available to them. The Games provided a timely boost for the sector, in particular during what is traditionally outdoor's quietest period. The Games have shown that outdoor delivers scale and engagement across all demographics.

- Have the Olympics been as successful for the outdoor industry as it was hyped up to be?

External expectations were sky-high and, given the legislation to protect Olympic partners, I would say some of the hype was unrealistic. Whether due to British cynicism about the Games or confusion about the restrictions on outdoor during the Games period, the initial uptake was slower than we would have liked. But, as anticipation built, there was a scramble for audience in the weeks before the opening ceremony. Some advertisers felt their messages would get lost in the noise of the Olympics, but most acknowledged the benefits that would have on their brand, with 10.5 million spectators in the capital and a global TV audience of 4.7 billion.

- The amount spent by sponsors was far less than the £250 million many had hoped for, with non-sponsors buying the majority of Olympic outdoor sites. Were expectations too high?

Market expectations were too high. The huge sums of money invested by the partners meant that we were all expecting more money to be spent on activation near the venues. Initially, we expected sponsors to use some of our more traditional advertising sites, but with the Games being a spectacle, the sponsors went for the spectacular, opting for high-impact creative displays in key footfall locations. What's more, legislation governed the pricing of the vicinity advertising sites, so rates were set by legislation rather than expectation. This legislation did initially restrict uptake; however, working collaboratively with LOCOG and the Outdoor Media Centre, we managed to relax the rules to allow a selection of non-sponsor categories to advertise in these locations, creating some truly memorable standout campaigns.

- With a lot of the advertising spend focused on London in the second quarter, has this had a negative effect on regional outdoor?

I can't speak for the industry as a whole but, from a CBS Outdoor perspective, we have performed very strongly during the second quarter. It was business as usual for the majority of advertisers outside of London, who were able to avoid the clutter and noise of the Olympics and achieve a large share of voice in the market.

- Were outdoor and mobile used effectively during the Olympics in terms of integrated campaigns, or could we have done better?

It is fair to say that the Olympics have been the catalyst for the installation of Wi-Fi on the London Underground, with more than 72 stations enabled ahead of the Games. Connectivity has allowed brands to capitalise on the social buzz around the Olympics, with more than eight million Tweets, Facebook posts, e-mails and webpages recorded on the Underground during the Games period. With Wi-Fi-enabled stations set to increase to 120 by the end of the year, the volume of integrated campaigns is set to grow rapidly. As Channel 4's promotion for the Paralympics says: "Thanks for the warm-up." This isn't the end of the Olympic effect for outdoor. It's the beginning.

ANNIE RICKARD, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, POSTERSCOPE

- The advertising industry has spent the past four years gearing up for the Olympics. Was it worth it?

Yes - Olympic outdoor advertising undoubtedly added to the sense of occasion, spreading this far beyond just the Olympic Park and building anticipation in the run-up to the greatest show on earth. For me, many campaigns captured the mood perfectly. Adidas celebrated sporting performance with its "take the stage/stage taken" narrative before, during and after the Games. McDonald's reminded us that "we all make the Games" and Coca-Cola galvanised the party atmosphere with its "move to the beat" message.

- Have the Olympics been as successful for the outdoor industry as it was hyped up to be?

From a commercial standpoint, some sectors have benefited more than others, specifically high-status locations and those with particular geographical significance, so media owners with higher exposure to these areas will have done better. Conversely, those media owners with a heavy broadcast exposure will not have benefited as much. Creatively, we have seen some hugely impactful and innovative work deployed in many one-off creations, such as station dominations for McDonald's and EDF Energy, the Westfield bridge for Coke and, arguably, the best banner in the Olympic Park for BMW. I think that this showcase of what is possible in the medium will prove to be the outdoor legacy for the Games and we must ensure, as an industry, that we capitalise on this.

- The amount spent by sponsors was far less than the £250 million many had hoped for, with non-sponsors buying the majority of Olympic outdoor sites. Were expectations too high?

In our experience, in every Olympic market, the media owners, and particularly in outdoor, have always had expectations that are unreasonably high. Our perspective on London 2012 has been that the market has performed much as we expected it to, with the global partners and tier-one sponsors being the most active. Expectations among media owners have varied hugely but, nonetheless, almost every sponsor, at every level, has used the medium in some capacity.

- With a lot of the advertising spend focused on London in the second quarter, has this had a negative effect on regional outdoor?

The Olympic "spike" really happened in the third quarter. If there has been a negative effect, it has been more about non-sponsors being put off by concerns about cutting through or by the incorrect assumption that everything was already sold. Part of this perception was undoubtedly created by the unavoidable legislative requirement to offer outdoor inventory in an auction format back in 2011.

- Were outdoor and mobile used effectively during the Olympics in terms of integrated campaigns, or could we have done better?

Much was made of the fact that this would be the first truly mobile/social Olympics and, to an extent, this has proven to be the case. Outdoor is extremely well-placed, in the context of the connected mobile consumer, to start a conversation. However, at the moment, this behaviour doesn't come naturally and, therefore, content becomes extremely important. Adidas made this more obvious with the use of hashtags as a central element of its outdoor creative. While not exclusive to the medium, they were nonetheless used nearly 150,000 times over the course of the Games, and I think that this is a trend that we will see more of in the medium.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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