MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON; POSTER TRACKING: Does MOFA’s tracking system herald a new era in outdoor?

Outdoor is set to endorse MOFA’s bar-code tracking plans, Alasdair Reid says

Outdoor is set to endorse MOFA’s bar-code tracking plans, Alasdair Reid


In the age of the Internet, an advertising medium that uses technologies

which Blue Peter presenters would be very much at home with - glue and

coloured bits of paper - is always going to struggle to establish

leading credentials. But, amazing though it may seem, the poster

business is preparing to go hi-tech.

Last week, More O’Ferrall Adshel announced that it is to introduce a

bar-code tracking system to give poster buyers and advertisers an

instantaneous update on whether the right poster has gone up at the

right sites, at the right time - or, more simply, to reassure clients

that they are getting what they paid for.

There has always been a tracking system, of sorts, in operation.

Previously, the man with the ladder, bucket and brush used to fill out

forms. The client would get a summary of the pasting progress about ten

to 14 days later.

But there have always been advertisers prepared to question whether the

forms were economical with the truth, especially where the date of the

posting was concerned.

MOFA’s new system will, hopefully, be beyond reproach. Its Adshel sites

will all be given a bar code and, if agencies co-operate, so will

posters for Adshel campaigns. When the poster goes up, the two bar codes

will be scanned by a portable reader and the details recorded

electronically. MOFA claims the system is foolproof and will provide a

fast and accurate inventory management system.

It sounds impressive. But how important is it? Is accountability an

important issue? Has it been holding back the medium?

‘In the past, the industry did have a problem in delivering what the

advertiser had paid for,’ Eric Newnham, the managing director of Poster

Publicity, says. ‘The reality is that those problems have been overcome,

but sometimes it’s not good enough for the industry merely to know that

- it has to be expressed in a concrete way, too. This will add to

confidence in the medium, and anything that makes advertisers feel more

warmly about outdoor has to be applauded. The big issue now is to

persuade agencies and their production people to go through the hoop of

actually putting the bar codes on their posters.’

The radio industry went through a similar process by providing

transmission certificates for the first time last year. They have helped

to increase credibility in this buoyant medium. And radio offers an

important lesson for outdoor, namely, the importance of pulling together

as an industry. Perhaps bar codes should be an issue for the medium as a

whole, and not just MOFA.

MOFA is not quite the first contractor to introduce bar codes. Buspak,

the bus advertising contractor, introduced a similar system in January.

Colm O’Cuilleanain, the managing director of Mills and Allen, says most

contractors will now take the plunge. ‘We’re currently looking at the

results of Buspak’s initiative and putting plans together with a view to

introducing our own system at the start of next year,’ he reveals.

‘Ideally, it should be introduced across the whole of the industry, and

I’m sure that major companies are looking at it, too. I don’t know if

there should be a standard. In reality, you’ll find that contractors

will attempt to compete on what they can offer in the way of added

value,’ he continues.

‘Accountability isn’t the issue that it might have been, though there’s

no harm in reassuring advertisers. There are advertisers out there who

are still wary of the outdoor medium and we do need to convince them. It

will also help to keep the contractors themselves on their toes. I

believe it could improve our efficiency,’ O’Cuilleanain concludes.