Media: Fears over poster duopoly

Two of the UK’s major poster contractors, which between them dominate the 48-sheet sector, last week launched the first stage of a joint marketing initiative.

Two of the UK’s major poster contractors, which between them

dominate the 48-sheet sector, last week launched the first stage of a

joint marketing initiative.



Maiden and Mills & Allen, with the support of three regional

contractors, are giving away pounds 1m worth of free space on 48-sheet

and 96-sheet sites to allow non-poster users to try out the medium’s

effectiveness.



But when the sector’s two biggest players feel the need to collaborate,

what knock-on effect does it have on the industry?



Outwardly, the poster industry has shown support for the test, hailing

it as a real attempt to claw back revenue lost from advertisers which

have recently deserted the medium, such as drinks brands.



Privately, there is disquiet that the collaboration could become a

’collusion’.



Fears have been voiced that the giveaway is a sweetener to mask more

contentious issues.



Media buyers and poster specialists are concerned that the next move

could be toward a joint selling agreement that could involve tougher

rates and cutbacks on commission for specialists. It is a situation that

would give Maiden and Mills & Allen a stranglehold on the poster

market.



’If they got into that territory and started conditionally selling, then

an agency buyer whose objective is to take a cost-effective route would

raise the roof,’ says Mike Gorman, media director of Saatchi &

Saatchi.



’Things are a bit sensitive at the moment,’ agrees Alan Simmons,

chairman of poster specialist Concord. ’If the next stage goes beyond

the pounds 1m offer into joint selling then they could fuel the debate

about the cartel. But they are unlikely to fall into that

temptation.’



Maiden’s managing director, Francis Goodwin, strongly denies setting

another agenda, and says the next stage involves developing a bar-coding

system and carrying out some joint research.



’We are working together while competing vigorously for every piece of

business. I don’t know why people are fighting ghosts that don’t

exist.



Don’t judge us by what we might do but by what we are doing,’ he

says.



The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, which welcomes the

initiative, will be watching the next move carefully.



ISBA’s director of media services, Bob Wootton, says: ’If it is a

foretaste of less accountable joint practices, such as more interaction

on sales policies, then the industry will be watching.



’Let’s not get paranoid yet, but we must keep our eyes open.’



Market pasting

Company            48-sheet     96-sheet

Maiden                  38%          31%

Mills & Allen           35%          24%

More O’Ferrall           5%          35%

Other                   22%          10%



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