MEDIA FORUM: Are daypart ads to become a reality in outdoor? Something new is stirring in the outdoor medium. Actually it’s not so much stirring as scrolling. This technology could supersede earlier techniques for rotating outdoor executions. Shou

Trionic technology billboards were always a great idea in theory. Any form of eye-catching movement is to be welcomed in outdoor media and, outside of flashing lights or video-style moving pictures, 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 comprised of scores of prismatic ’blades’ that turn to offer a new picture every ten seconds or so) 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, outside of flashing lights or video-style moving pictures, 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 comprised of

scores of prismatic ’blades’ that turn to offer a new picture every ten

seconds or so) there’s variety on offer too.



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, even more unappealing,

trembling in mid-change.



Some of them may now be switched off for good. This summer the UK will

see the introduction of a new technology that will do what trionics did,

only better. 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 now, but last

week More Group announced that it would be the first to bring it across

the channel, with the launch of Scrolling 48s on 20 major London sites

by 1 June.



It will beat JCDecaux, its bitter rival, to the market by 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 new way. People are already talking about outdoor being

sold, as TV is, in dayparts. An advertiser could have six different

executions.



A different one for each part of the day. Or several 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.



The new technology makes it eminently more workable. Should advertisers

be excited by that prospect? And what implications would it have for

outdoor’s much-vaunted claim that it is the last remaining truly

broadcast medium?



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

against getting too carried away at this point. She states: ’At this

early stage we will not be actively 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 yet

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. What we are introducing just adds to the

medium’s potential flexibility.’



Interestingly, France believes that the old technology still has some

life in it: ’We firmly believe that 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 that we have the best technology.’



M&A is also keen to increase its proportion of premium product. 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 adds: ’This issue has to be seen in the context of our investment

strategy and the research we have been carrying out among our customers.

It’s clear that in general they want more illumination, more

high-quality sites and better locations with realistic pricing. So 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 that

we don’t have some customers who’d be interested in running different

executions across the day.’



Where he does differ from More Group is on the issue of trionics. He

insists that the technology is dead. All the good sites he can develop

will upgrade to scrolling technology. But what about the reluctance to

actively 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, the chairman of Concord, can see scrolling technology

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

always prefer static sites accessible to 100 per cent of the audience

all of the time. But obviously those already using - and frustrated by -

the notoriously 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-hour

period - but do the others settle for other parts of the day? It could

be a tricky thing to manage.’



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

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

flexibility and allows advertisers to use the medium in more interesting

and creative ways, then fine. But the temptation in the market is to

hijack the best sheetage and attempt to sell one third of the time for

the same price as they used to get for 100 per cent of the time. The

reality is that many advertisers still use posters as a rapid way of

developing fame for their brand - and that is the way that the medium is

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

takes things beyond an attempt to merely leverage more revenue from each

site. They have to go to the market and quantify the additional value

they are offering. But I don’t want to seem cynical - there’s major

progress being made by many outdoor media owners and it’s encouraging

that the UK remains such a progressive market.’



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