MEDIA ANALYSIS FORUM: Will advertisers rush to buy scrolling poster sites?. The upgraded format could lead to outdoor being sold in dayparts, says Alasdair Reid

Trionic technology billboards were always a great idea in theory. Any form of eye-catching movement is to be welcomed in outdoor media, and this was about as good as it got, especially in the 48-sheet format. With three executions being shown in rotation (the pictorial area is made up of scores of prismatic ’blades’ that turn to offer a new picture every ten seconds) there’s variety on offer too.

Trionic technology billboards were always a great idea in theory.

Any form of eye-catching movement is to be welcomed in outdoor media,

and this was about as good as it got, especially in the 48-sheet format.

With three executions being shown in rotation (the pictorial area is

made up of scores of prismatic ’blades’ that turn to offer a new picture

every ten seconds) there’s variety on offer too.



And when the technology works, the ripple effect as the ad changes can

be quite pleasing. Unfortunately, the billboard mechanisms don’t always

work. All over the country you can see them frozen or trembling between

ads.



Some of them may now be switched off for good. This summer, scrolling

technology that improves on Trionics will be introduced into the UK.

Trionic technology is cumbersome and unreliable. Scrolling isn’t. In

scrolling, the whole sheet is pulled round - there are less fiddly

moving parts and it can rotate six different executions. It’s been used

successfully in the rest of Europe for some time but last week More

Group announced it would be the first company to bring it across the

Channel, launching scrolling 48-sheets on 20 major London sites by 1

June.



More will beat its bitter rival, JC Decaux, to the market by several

weeks. At the end of last year, Decaux announced a pounds 50 million

programme of regeneration at its Mills & Allen subsidiary, which will

include the introduction of 25 scrolling 48-sheet sites by the end of

July.



A technological upgrade. So what? Well, the technology is not only more

reliable but more controllable. And that could mean looking at the

medium in a whole new way. People are already talking about outdoor

being sold, like TV, in dayparts. One advertiser could have six

executions, a different one for each part of the day. Or several

different advertisers could share a site. A fast-food company with a

breakfast offering could switch between two executions in the morning; a

sandwich company could have the middle of the day and a film company the

evening hours.



Scrolling makes this eminently more workable. Should advertisers be

excited?



And what implications will it have for outdoor’s much vaunted claim that

it is the last remaining true broadcast medium?



Julie France, the sales and marketing director of More Group, cautions

against getting too carried away. She states: ’At this early stage we

will not actively be selling dayparts and though the panels will offer a

total of six executions, we will start by selling three of the

faces.



We feel that its immediate value is in adding another dimension to the

outdoor dynamic. As for its broadcast credentials - outdoor is a

multipurpose offering. It is obviously a broadcast medium and we will be

continuing to sell it as such. But it can also be a targeted medium.

This adds to outdoor’s flexibility.’



Interestingly, France believes there’s life in the old system: ’The

trionic technology isn’t dead. It’s true that it has been under-invested

and we intend to put that right. We want to retain as much of our moving

product as possible and we want to ensure we have the best

technology.’



M&A is also keen to up the proportion of premium products it offers.



Lawrence Haines, the company’s managing director, points out that where

scrolling is concerned, M&A’s parent company pioneered the technology

across Europe. He says: ’This issue has to be seen in the context of our

investment strategy and the research we have been carrying out among our

customers. In general, they want more illumination, more high-quality

sites and better locations with realistic pricing. Our introduction of

scrolling technology is part of that but, at the moment, selling

dayparts isn’t central to our strategy. That isn’t to say we don’t have

some customers who’d be interested in running different executions

across the day.’



Haines differs from More Group on the issue of Trionics. He insists the

technology is dead. All the good sites he can develop will be upgraded

to scrolling technology. But what about the reluctance to sell

dayparts?



Some observers are not surprised that dayparts won’t be actively sold at

this stage. It’s too difficult for outdoor sales forces, they say.



But Alan Simmons, chairman of Concord, thinks scrolling technology will

become a significant outdoor medium. He comments: ’Some advertisers

always prefer static sites that are accessible to 100 per cent of the

audience all the time. But obviously those already using - and

frustrated by - the unreliable old technology will be relieved. Dayparts

will certainly be of interest to some advertisers. It will be

interesting to see how media owners manage their inventory. If three

advertisers are sharing a site, how easy will it be to reconcile their

different demands? One advertiser will want it static for, say, the peak

morning rush period - but will others settle for other parts of the day?

It could be tricky to manage.’



Iain Jacob, the executive director of Starcom Motive, is also intrigued

to see how it will be sold. He says: ’If this provides more flexibility

and allows advertisers to use the medium in more creative ways, then

fine. But the temptation in the market is to hijack the best sheetage

and try to sell one third of the time for the same price as they used to

sell 100 per cent of the time. Many advertisers still use posters as a

rapid way of developing fame for their brand - and that’s the way the

medium is often sold. I’d like to see the media owners developing a sell

that takes things beyond an attempt to merely gain more revenue from

each site. They have to go to the market and quantify the extra value

they are offering. But major progress is being made by many outdoor

media owners and it’s encouraging that the UK remains such a progressive

market.’



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