Media Perspective: Barcelona's mix of delegates is key to a successful event

"Thank you outdoor advertising for saving my marriage," Homer bawled in an unlikely testimony to the power of billboards, during a recently repeated episode of The Simpsons.

It will be interesting to see if many of the married delegates at this year's Barcelona outdoor conference (held on Thursday and Friday) are capable of saying this with any honesty after the bacchanalia of the traditional gala dinner on Friday night.

But, of course, the event is much more than a social whirl designed for those who fancy some Catalan crumpet. There is also some hard business discussion on the agenda this year.

Like every medium, outdoor is well aware of the need to provide robust research, so there will be some table-thumping about the move toward greater "inclusivity" in Poster Audience Research (Postar), which will make it possible to measure reach across all types of outdoor options, from bus sides to tube stations.

All well and good but cynics would still suggest that many delegates are there because the location provides the opportunity for late summer revelry in the sun.

One agency boss said to me last week: "Outdoor is a very important medium but you can discuss all that needs to be discussed in ten minutes, then you can catch up with everybody you know there."

Which sounds like a good recipe for a successful event to me. Obviously it's impossible to predict with any certainty whether Barcelona is going to be a triumph but a good range of speakers bodes well and, more importantly, the mix of delegates looks impressive.

The conference reaches toward another type of "inclusivity" with its strong representation from creative agencies, who are not seen in large numbers at other media-focused conferences (for example, the major TV events). In addition to a strong client list, the top brass from ad agencies including DDB London, Leo Burnett, TBWA\London and WCRS (to name a few) will be in attendance. The M&C Saatchi partner David Kershaw is chairing the event, adding extra weight to the inclusion of creative agencies.

Good representation from all sides of the ad industry suggests that the conference organisers are not complete morons for adding the ambitious "taking the lead" strapline to conference branding. It will be interesting to see whether the inclusive principle of Barcelona rubs off on other media, and whether the current thrashing out by the TV companies of a plan to market their medium results in similar interest from agencies and advertisers.

As for me, I won't be going to Barcelona (though other Campaign staff will be in sober attendance). But in future years I hope to be there, screaming Homer's homage at the top of my voice.


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