Lamppost and telephone box advertising may still be two of the outdoor medium's smaller sectors, but their very existence arguably highlights the medium's determination to legitimise previously fringe activities and drag them into the mainstream.
Lamppost advertising, for instance, used to be the sole domain of fly-posting cowboys in search of an Asbo. In a few short years, companies such as Streetbroadcast and 247outdoor have rapidly developed from bolt-on boards into a hi-tech street furniture proposition, with double-sided, backlit sites, often incorporating LED message strips updateable from a central location via GPRS technology.
The increasing sophistication of vinyl printing techniques has also improved the medium's creative appeal.
But it is the rejuvenation of phone boxes, which for years struggled to shake of their reputation as shop windows for those in the personal services industries, that is perhaps an even more extraordinary story - and Clear Channel must take most of the credit.
BT had been attempting to develop phone boxes as an advertising medium since 1997 with mix results. Then, in 2004, it handed the contract for its 18,000 phone boxes to Clear Channel's Adshel Connect division.
Adshel began a £3 million investment programme, using mapping technology to select the phone boxes in the best locations, obviously in high streets and densely populated areas.
It then introduced accountability by bar-coding each kiosk, ensured the full inventory was included on the industry's trading currency, Postar, and began marketing packages targeting specific audience demographics or proximity to certain types of retailers.
Research shows 28 million UK adults see Adshel phone kiosk advertising per week and 54 per cent of the audience is from the 15- to 24-year-old bracket. These numbers have proved attractive to advertisers in the leisure and entertainment categories - however, interestingly, public service and government campaigns have been among the sector's biggest supporters.
It also offers an interesting claim to fame in the near-advertising desert that is the Square Mile, where 52 per cent of all outdoor sites these days are phone kiosks. They can also offer an eye-catching presence in the pedestrianised areas that are now a feature of the central retail areas of so many of the UK's towns and cities.
The top clients across 2005 included United International Pictures, the Post Office, ITV, COI, Diageo, Estee Lauder, 3G, Abbey National and Crookes Healthcare. Adshel says 370 new brands trialled the medium last year.
BT has been more than happy with the results. As Tim Ferguson, the head of sales and marketing, BT Multimedia Terminals and Payphones, says: "Since Adshel took on the sales of BT's payphone glass, we have seen a 150 per cent increase in advertising sales and a commitment to grow the business over the life of the contract. Adshel has taken on our estate with minimum fuss and is working with us to develop new revenue streams."
MAJOR PLAYERS: 247outdoor, Streetbroadcast (lamp- posts); Adshel Connect (phone kiosks)
WHAT'S NEW: Updatable LED messages, vinyl wraps
CASE STUDY - TOMMY HILFIGER
Client: Tommy Hilfiger Toiletries
Media owner: Adshel Connect, part of Clear Channel UK
Brief: Promote the True Star and True Star for Men fragrances on a
broadcast outdoor medium in the run-up to Christmas. Phone boxes gave
nationwide coverage and were selected close to key retailers and busy
Budget: Not disclosed
Target market: Young ABC1s
Sector inventory: 5,000 phone boxes. October 2005: the Adshel Connect ads featured Beyonce Knowles for True Star and Enrique Iglesias for True Star for Men. December 2005: the second ad burst featured Beyonce and the new True Star Gold fragrance.
Wider outdoor inventory used Adshel Connect phone boxes. The client has used Adshel bus shelters in the past.
Other media used: Press.
Client testimonial: "Prompted awareness of the ads was extremely high. Research showed respondents considered the creative to be striking and eye-catching."