Time was when the prospect of a two-day conference on the outdoor
industry would fill a Campaign editor’s heart with dread, glamorous
overseas location or not. But, since Sorrento four years ago, the
industry - so the conventional wisdom goes - has grown up. Last week’s
’StreetTalk’ conference in Madrid was to be the test.
Outdoor passed it with flying colours. Chris Dickens, the chairman, and
the other organisers should be congratulated. In sharp contrast to the
TV industry the month before in Barcelona, outdoor appeared united in
its achievements over the past four years. Madrid became that
journalist’s nightmare: a love-in.
This coming to maturity has been achieved partly because of positive
initiatives taken to improve the location and standard of sites and
measurement techniques, and partly through the passive benefits of
disaffection with TV costs. It appears the Postar research system has
been successful. It was discussed ad nauseam in Madrid, because it’s one
of two great new-business tools the medium currently enjoys.
But a note of caution. Thanks to Postar, outdoor can go some way to
demonstrating its reach. That’s an improvement worthy of congratulation.
But, that should be the least one might expect of a mainstream
advertising medium. The mind boggles at the sales tools poster boys use
before Postar. As Jean-Francois Decaux stated in the event’s outstanding
speech, it’s still the 5 per cent medium it was when he joined the
There was one clear message from the conference, though certain speakers
did not realise they were saying it in their presentations. The real
new-business tool of the past five years has been the creative
advertising campaigns that have exploded across the national medium with
outstanding results. Wonderbra, ’fcuk’, Nike, Pretty Polly, the
Economist and Nissan Micra have all demonstrated the effectiveness of
the medium. So, more controversially, have Club 18-30 and Benetton.
As much was being made of outdoor becoming the last truly broadcast
medium in the digital age, a nagging doubt was seeded in the mind of
Do (or will) all these new poster advertisers really understand how best
to use the medium? Are too many of them treating it like press, only
Trevor Beattie, arguably the most successful exponent of poster
advertising over the past few years, has a mantra he repeated in Madrid:
’Keep it simple. Keep it simple. Keep it simple.’ No-one disagreed. So,
why are so many poster ads complex? Why are the logos and words
illegible? How can turkeys like FedEx happen?
The outdoor industry is genuinely exciting. Things can only get even
better. But outdoor must not become complacent. Above all, the industry
should remember that in the end: it’s the creative, stupid.