Media: Double Standards - Hugging strangers and outdoor fun in Lapland

With decisions on the huge BAA and TfL contracts looming, two big outdoor players share their insights on an industry in transition.

JULIE FRANCE - GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR, CLEAR CHANNEL UK

- Is outdoor a creative medium?

Yes. It's a blank canvas - a pure creative medium uncluttered by editorial prejudice. It's a gift to talented creatives, as posters such as The Economist demonstrate. The rapid developments in technology are offering outdoor even more creative opportunities - from downloads and hypertag to screens and sound.

- What was the most exciting technological development in the outdoor market last year?

New digital outdoor formats captured the headlines last year. On traditional outdoor, clients used new technology and techniques on campaigns such as Star Wars and Wallace and Gromit.

- Does the rapid growth of digital outdoor in 2005 signal the beginning of the end for the traditional billboard?

It may be the beginning of the end, but the end will be a long time coming. Our clients want ads in great locations that deliver mass audience and impact and that's what traditional billboards provide.

- How true is it that the industry is not accountable and needs to invest more in research to prove that outdoor works?

Outdoor is truly accountable at all levels. We not only offer proof of posting, but have the most sophisticated audience-measurement system in Postar. Our own tracking survey with Millward Brown has been running for more than ten years.

- How successful was the joint initiative between the Radio Advertising Bureau and the Outdoor Advertising Association and does outdoor need to work more closely with other media?

The research demonstrated that the combination of radio and outdoor can accelerate the process of hardwiring brands into the brain. As audiences fragment, no doubt other media will want to work more closely with us.

- Does consolidation at outdoor planning and buying groups harm creativity?

Fewer, stronger relationships should enable us to build closer business partnerships and aid creativity. On the other side of the coin, competition stimulates creativity, so we mustn't become complacent.

- What was the best innovation your company produced last year?

In the UK, the winning tender for the London street furniture contract, which included a new product and state-of-the-art shelters. Internationally, the first digital roadside network in Cleveland, Ohio.

- What will be the biggest development in the outdoor market in the next year?

A close call between further consolidation, which is likely to affect all sectors of the business, and the increase in the use of new technology.

- Are big outdoor tenders a stimulus for innovation?

They can be, because they challenge media owners to come up with the very best ideas. Competition is always a stimulus for innovation.

- Describe the culture of your company

Customer-focused - "we try harder" (Avis), "think different" (Apple Mac), "impossible is nothing" (Adidas), "it's good to play together" (Microsoft Xbox).

- How did you come to work in the outdoor industry?

I was head-hunted.

- What is your favourite outdoor activity?

Horse-riding.

What did you do on New Year's Eve?

Hugged a lot of strangers.

SPENCER BERWIN - MANAGING DIRECTOR, SALES, JCDECAUX UK

- Is outdoor a creative medium?

Yes, very much so! The very nature of outdoor advertising gives it more potential than, say, TV or press, where creativity is limited by practical difficulties. For a start, size does matter. If a creative idea is up there, big, bold and unmissable, it spurs people on to think about other ways in which the medium can be used.

- What was the most exciting technological development in the outdoor market last year?

The single most? As far as I'm concerned, there was a catalogue of them! I loved Nokia's 42-inch screens, BVI's Showscreens and More4's fabulous Peep Show and Bluetooth outdoor campaign.

- Does the rapid growth of digital outdoor in 2005 signal the beginning of the end for the traditional billboard?

There's been so much progress on digital already. With more in the pipeline,there is no doubt it will become increasingly important. But standard sites still have much to offer and traditional outdoor will continue to flourish.

- How true is it that the industry is not accountable and needs to invest more in research to prove that outdoor works?

Is there ever enough money spent on research? However, as an industry we have a significant body of case studies proving outdoor works. This is supported by Postar. This commitment to accountability is set to continue on an ongoing basis.

- How successful was the joint initiative between the Radio Advertising Bureau and the Outdoor Advertising Association and does outdoor need to work more closely with other media?

Absolutely. JCDecaux is the out-of-home sponsor of the IPA Touchpoints study; we really believe in this kind of project as support for our effectiveness arguments.

- Does consolidation at outdoor planning and buying groups harm creativity?

Outdoor has gone through massive consolidation, maybe with even more to come. Creativity and investment have accelerated, with more detailed planning tools and more innovative products available than ever before.

- What was the best innovation your company produced last year?

Anything featuring large amounts of interactivity, and a screen! For example, More4 with Bluetooth, and BVI's ongoing use of Showscreens.

- What will be the biggest development in the outdoor market in the next year?

There will be loads. Key tenders are currently being decided and, whatever the result is, they will inevitably change the market. All I can really say is: watch this space.

- Are big outdoor tenders a stimulus for innovation?

Yes. They encourage you to have ideas above and beyond the day job and next-step them as a matter of urgency.

- Describe the culture of your company

The culture is based on the JCDecaux quality offering at great locations with no surprises, all packaged up with a work hard, play hard ethic.

- How did you come to work in the outdoor industry?

As the only pure-play medium, its creative opportunities are unrivalled. It also has the best people and the greatest potential for growth; a fantastic area in which to work.

- What is your favourite outdoor activity?

The annual JCDecaux trip to Lapland and all it entails, some of which you'd not expect to take place outdoors!

- What did you do on New Year's Eve?

Spent time with my poor, neglected wife and family, along with selected friends and selected wines, in our local pub.

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