No-one could accuse the outdoor industry of being recklessly
In 1994 at a conference in Sorrento, advertisers, media owners and
outdoor specialists gathered to discuss the medium’s burning issues.
Issues such as the imminent arrival of grown-up, credible research,
called Oscar II (which became Postar); the pros and cons of the medium’s
arcane commission system - and the issue of packages.
Life is too short for some things - and planning and buying an outdoor
campaign site by site is certainly one of them. Even if you did have the
patience to buy individual billboards, you wouldn’t really know what you
were buying in audience terms. So you take off-the-shelf packages of
sites that meet rough and ready planning requirements - such as giving
extra regional momentum to TV campaigns.
At Sorrento, advertisers pointed out that the advent of Oscar II would -
or could - change some of those rules. Posters would come closer to
having ’impacts’ data, and planning could become more precise. But
although packages could make life easy for both contractors and buyers,
they were not going to be flexible enough for the requirements of
Four years on, Maiden has acted. Last week it launched Dynamic
Solutions, a system designed to bring a measure of flexibility to the
The contractor will put 2,000 (some agencies have been told 3,000)
sites, or 20 per cent of its total inventory, into a pool from which
advertisers will be able to buy individual panels.
It is not envisaged that anyone will attempt - or in practice be allowed
- to construct whole campaigns from this new spot market. Rather, they
will be used to correct deficiencies in some packages or enhance the
effectiveness of others.
Will it work? The medium is not known for delivering with subtlety or
complexity. After all, campaigns in the outdoor market are still reliant
on a man in a van with a ladder and brush. Throw his fortnightly
schedule out of kilter and you might end up with mistakes.
The biggest worry for specialists is that this and other logistical
problems might increase lead times. And the great attraction of outdoor
for some advertisers is its use as a short-term tactical weapon.
’Almost by definition, packages suit the media owner’s particular
distribution of sites. They don’t even reflect the distribution of
population in the country, never mind the specific requirements of
advertisers. The chance to counter that will be welcomed,’ Alan Simmons,
chairman of Concord, says.
But, he adds, the system has limitations. ’The first in will have the
pick of the crop, and it may well be that only a couple of advertisers
will be able to get exactly what they want - because, by definition, at
least 10 per cent of the pool will probably be of no use to any one,’ he
says. ’Maiden will no doubt be seeking a premium from these sites and
lead times will be a concern because posting could be a nightmare. We’ll
all be on a learning curve over the first six months of next year. It
will be up to the market as a whole to decide whether, when push comes
to shove, it actually wants this.’
Chris Morley, the chief executive of IPM, says that longer lead times
would be a concern - but he is confident that Maiden will be alive to
the issue. He comments: ’The success or failure of this initiative will
depend on the quality of the systems used to manage it. In return for
creating bespoke packages, Maiden has to maximise yield and that will
need deft inventory management.
’The message that came out of Sorrento was that packages aren’t
necessarily the last word and that you should be able to tweak them at
the margins. We will certainly approach this positively. This will test
how much flexibility there can be in the outdoor market.’