Outdoor is set to endorse MOFA’s bar-code tracking plans, Alasdair Reid
In the age of the Internet, an advertising medium that uses technologies
which Blue Peter presenters would be very much at home with - glue and
coloured bits of paper - is always going to struggle to establish
leading credentials. But, amazing though it may seem, the poster
business is preparing to go hi-tech.
Last week, More O’Ferrall Adshel announced that it is to introduce a
bar-code tracking system to give poster buyers and advertisers an
instantaneous update on whether the right poster has gone up at the
right sites, at the right time - or, more simply, to reassure clients
that they are getting what they paid for.
There has always been a tracking system, of sorts, in operation.
Previously, the man with the ladder, bucket and brush used to fill out
forms. The client would get a summary of the pasting progress about ten
to 14 days later.
But there have always been advertisers prepared to question whether the
forms were economical with the truth, especially where the date of the
posting was concerned.
MOFA’s new system will, hopefully, be beyond reproach. Its Adshel sites
will all be given a bar code and, if agencies co-operate, so will
posters for Adshel campaigns. When the poster goes up, the two bar codes
will be scanned by a portable reader and the details recorded
electronically. MOFA claims the system is foolproof and will provide a
fast and accurate inventory management system.
It sounds impressive. But how important is it? Is accountability an
important issue? Has it been holding back the medium?
‘In the past, the industry did have a problem in delivering what the
advertiser had paid for,’ Eric Newnham, the managing director of Poster
Publicity, says. ‘The reality is that those problems have been overcome,
but sometimes it’s not good enough for the industry merely to know that
- it has to be expressed in a concrete way, too. This will add to
confidence in the medium, and anything that makes advertisers feel more
warmly about outdoor has to be applauded. The big issue now is to
persuade agencies and their production people to go through the hoop of
actually putting the bar codes on their posters.’
The radio industry went through a similar process by providing
transmission certificates for the first time last year. They have helped
to increase credibility in this buoyant medium. And radio offers an
important lesson for outdoor, namely, the importance of pulling together
as an industry. Perhaps bar codes should be an issue for the medium as a
whole, and not just MOFA.
MOFA is not quite the first contractor to introduce bar codes. Buspak,
the bus advertising contractor, introduced a similar system in January.
Colm O’Cuilleanain, the managing director of Mills and Allen, says most
contractors will now take the plunge. ‘We’re currently looking at the
results of Buspak’s initiative and putting plans together with a view to
introducing our own system at the start of next year,’ he reveals.
‘Ideally, it should be introduced across the whole of the industry, and
I’m sure that major companies are looking at it, too. I don’t know if
there should be a standard. In reality, you’ll find that contractors
will attempt to compete on what they can offer in the way of added
value,’ he continues.
‘Accountability isn’t the issue that it might have been, though there’s
no harm in reassuring advertisers. There are advertisers out there who
are still wary of the outdoor medium and we do need to convince them. It
will also help to keep the contractors themselves on their toes. I
believe it could improve our efficiency,’ O’Cuilleanain concludes.