PERSPECTIVE: Outdoor's doing very nicely without joint marketing schemes

Must a conscientious media type spend three days out of the office

and pounds 1,600 to take the temperature of the outdoor industry? Here,

as a service to readers who did not make it to Barcelona last week, is

an excuse not to. Or rather, here's the juicy bit, the rest appears in a

news story on page 5.



Unilever's media boot boy Alan Rutherford had delegates sitting up and

taking notice when he did the poster conference equivalent of throwing

an egg at the worst possible moment last week.



A jolly industry crowd of 370 delegates had gathered to note that

outdoor was the fastest growing medium in display advertising and to

ponder the fact that consolidation has brought increasing

professionalism, technical innovation and clout.



Then Rutherford weighed in with some tricky questions and all hell broke

loose. Is Postar - the industry's measurement system - an "inwardly

focussed black box"? In return for their investment in the medium, do

advertisers deserve a central resource for effectiveness data? Should

there be a central marketing body, with outdoor promoted as a brand? Is

the outdoor industry speaking to clients and creatives or just to

itself? And so on.



On Postar, launched to huge fanfare in 1996, Rutherford's criticism

seems valid. A lot has gone on behind the scenes, but people want to see

a product.



The launch of Postar Lite, which will enable agencies and clients to see

how posters can fit in with other media plans online - will address

this.



As will the announcement at the conference that Postar will be

inclusive, in just over a year incorporating supermarkets, buses,

railways etc as well as roadside panels.



A key area the industry certainly needs to address is proving the

effectiveness of outdoor campaigns. At the moment a client who buys from

Maiden, Decaux and More can end up sitting through three research

presentations from three research companies. How much better it would be

to get all three to agree on a central, single, consistent body of

data?



As usual there were hardly any clients in the audience to ponder the

issues. Many were called - 100 in fact - but only 30 chose to come.

Perhaps three days to focus on one medium is too much to expect of any

client, other than good old Mike Moran, that is.



In pointing up the complex structure of the outdoor business, Rutherford

may have answered his own question on the notion of outdoor promoting

itself as a brand in the manner of radio through the RAB or the regional

press through the Newspaper Society. In a business with so few players

and less of a generic sell, it's hard to see the value. Or, at this

point, the need as outdoor sets its sights on a 10 per cent share of the

display market. Here's to more Wonderbras, Fcuks and Economists to make

the whole thing look as good as the percentages.



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