The high-profile launch of Outsmart last week was the first step in finally getting the outdoor industry on par with other media trade bodies in the UK.
The remit for the old Outdoor Media Centre was extremely wide, covering legislation, planning, health and safety, as well as marketing the medium. It’s fair to say the old OMC team was under-resourced, unfocussed and stretched.
I was chairman of the OMC in late 2014 when we asked Mark Craze to conduct a strategic review for the trade body. The industry was investing heavily in new digital products, but the growth rates for the industry had been disappointing. We looked at the other trade bodies and it was clear we were being left behind.
We felt the out-of-home (OOH) industry had better products, increasing audiences, a world class audience measurement system and great sales teams, but we were failing to get the double-digit growth we believed the industry deserved.
As a result of the review, we decided to reshape the Outdoor Media Centre and put marketing of the medium at its heart and stop all activities that would not result in growing revenue.
The industry needed to increase the amount we invested in the OMC and give the body one point of focus – to grow our share of advertising revenue.
The three remaining Council members, Clear Channel, Exterion and Primesight all significantly increased contributions. In addition, Ocean and Outdoor Plus also stepped up to join the industry Council, significantly increasing their investment.
Since that time, Alan has grown the team from four to ten, radically changed the brand identity to Outsmart, started an effectiveness study, and began a process of working more collaboratively with the outdoor specialists and wider media.
The vision is for Outsmart to be a truly independent and expert voice for the OOH industry.
We want to engage with advertisers and remind them of the great strength of the medium as a way of building fast and cost effective reach as well as educating them on the capabilities of digital OOH, where we can be flexible, tactical and immediate.
We need to continue to work hard to prove the effectiveness of the medium and champion the great creative work that appears on our products.
In the long term we want Outsmart to be seen as the industry leading trade body in the UK. We want the body to be inclusive, with membership open to all media owners. Outsmart should be a neutral forum for advertisers and the champions of the OOH industry.
But the relaunch doesn’t come without its hurdles. Outsmart needs to understand and challenge how the medium is measured in the various econometric models. It needs to provide the forum for members to work together on areas such data and automation, particularly in digital.
There has long been talk of the importance of collaboration, both within the OOH sector and with the wider industry. Outsmart has a chance (and a challenge) to finally make this happen and help the medium push forward, exploiting creativity and technology.
The results of Outsmart’s effectiveness review, due in the New Year, will be a huge opportunity to address these issues and drive the body’s key messaging and focus throughout 2016.
Last week was the beginning of the journey and the hard work starts now.
Naren Patel is the chief executive of Primesight