By FRANCIS GOODWIN, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 02 July 1999 12:00AM
The Government’s decision to bring forward the long-planned tobacco
ad ban to the end of the year is a short, sharp shock to the outdoor
industry, which had attempted to negotiate a measured withdrawal that
would give media owners enough time to prepare for the transition in an
Why the Government has broken ranks with most of the rest of the EU in
bringing in the ban two years early is a mystery, but it looks
suspiciously like a PR stunt. Even the Germans, who are hardly wild
advocates of unfettered free enterprise, are adhering to the original
deadline of December 2001.
The irony is that the ban will barely affect the tobacco companies but
will have a discernible impact on third parties. In particular, outdoor
contractors will have to replace anything between 5 and 20 per cent of
their business, while the site landlords are likely to receive lower
Clearly, this will cause a short-term problem for the large-format
contractors who benefit from tobacco outdoor advertising expenditure.
Currently, tobacco accounts for 4 per cent of outdoor income overall but
it makes up 7 to 8 per cent of the large format’s business. In the case
of some of the smaller contractors, this figure could be over 20 per
Yet, irritating though the decision is, the problems should be no more
than a blip, since the outdoor business has been preparing for a total
ban for several years now. In the face of the restrictions imposed and
voluntary agreements reached during the 90s, which have steadily reduced
tobacco expenditure in the medium, we have marketed ourselves far more
aggressively to a wide range of advertisers.
While tobacco dominated the outdoor medium just two decades ago,
accounting for 35 per cent of its revenue in 1977, there are now nine
larger product categories. The automotive and entertainment/media
sectors respectively account for 16 and 13 per cent of outdoor revenue,
while retail, travel and transport and cosmetics and toiletries each
account for 5 per cent.
Similarly, only 35 per cent of the top 200 advertisers used outdoor in
1991, but 88 per cent do so now. And outdoor has been one of the fastest
growing media in recent years, now accounting for more than 6 per cent
of the display advertising market.
In fact, the ban will produce some unexpected benefits for
For years, the tobacco companies have tied up certain sites on a
long-term basis. Now these will be released, enabling advertisers and
agencies to take a fresh look at planning and, with the help of the
latest Postar information and analysis, build even more effectiveness
into their campaigns.
Secondly, advertisers should be able to plan their large format
campaigns on the basis that there is likely to be virtually no cost
inflation in 2000, since the outdoor industry will be working hard to
replace lost revenues at current rates.
So this episode should have a silver lining for our customers and, one
hopes, lead to a further surge in the number of brands planning to use
Francis Goodwin is the managing director of Maiden Outdoor.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk