Outdoor: Special report

As years go, 2006 has been anything but dull for the outdoor advertising industry. The biggest contracts have been contested and concluded.

Two major acquisitions - Titan's of Maiden and Clear Channel's of Van Wagner - have concentrated media owner power and led to lofty promises of investment and innovation (this page). The digital arms race has begun in earnest (page 29). The urban landscape has some impressive additions, such as JCDecaux's Torch and the Foster Tower. And the medium is growing faster than most of its rivals, according to the Advertising Association. Outdoor's share of adspend is expected to grow from 7.4 to 7.8 per cent this year, edging closer to the 10 per cent mark so long in its sights.

Most significant of all was Viacom Outdoor's recapture of the London Underground contract. The £72 million slated to go on revamping the Tube's ad sites is promised to usher in the biggest transformation in UK outdoor history.

Not only are we to see moving images connected to a sprawling integrated digital network, but we can also expect dry postings in ultra-slim frames and sleek new bespoke furniture to appear over the next two-and-a-half years.

But, as Naked's Ivan Pollard pointed out at the unveiling of Viacom's plans in Leicester Square last month, with power comes responsibility. Media planners expect other big changes. More flexibility, ease of use, smarter packaging, more creativity, better systems and tools, and, above all, that age-old Achilles heel of outdoor - proof. How do we know all this investment will make a difference to how Tube travellers think and feel? Winning the biggest outdoor contract there ever was, Pollard says, was the easy part. Now comes the hard part - delivering.

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