SUPPLEMENT: The co-operative era

Confidence in the poster industry will be helped by Postar’s arrival. Report by Anne-Marie Crawford

Confidence in the poster industry will be helped by Postar’s arrival.

Report by Anne-Marie Crawford

Media sector joint industry committees work on one simple, if basic,

premise: to foster development of the medium by ensuring co-operation

and input on research from both the media owner and media buyer.

In television, radio and press this is taken for granted, but hasn’t

been in outdoor - until now. Until recently, no formal grouping existed

and the only real industry research body, Oscar (Outdoor Site

Classification and Audience Research), was overseen by the Outdoor

Advertising Association, the trade organisation which represents

contractors. In other words, the media owners.

The buyers, through their trade body, the Council of Outdoor

Specialists, had no formal role in Oscar. As Richard Holliday, the

director of the OAA, says: ‘When I was appointed to the OAA job, I was

surprised to find I was also chairman of the Joint Industry Committee

for Poster Audience Research. It had representatives from the Institute

of Practitioners in Advertising and Incorporated Society of British

Advertisers, and representatives from the buying side; but it wasn’t

formally constituted.’

The result was all sorts of problems, especially on the research front.

As one insider put it: ‘Outdoor has long been fraught with buyers and

sellers not getting on. Sellers have jealously guarded their information

and buyers have complained that the data is not sufficient for today’s


This in turn meant that the currency of industry research was

undervalued. Advertisers were not always entirely sure what they were

buying, and so the market was very much commodity-driven.

But, step by step, the outdoor industry has been putting its house in

order, and the creation of Jicpar - recently renamed Postar Limited - is

a major breakthrough.

Postar Limited was established last month and brings together

representatives from the OAA, the Council of Outdoor Specialists, the

IPA and ISBA in a professional partnership.

It is perhaps the clearest example of the industry pulling together,

both buyers and sellers, for a common good. As Francis Goodwin, the

managing director of Maiden Roadside, says: ‘The significance of the

joint industry committee is that it is a better way of formalising the

input and commitment from the two parties.’

Chris Morley, the chief executive of the specialist, IPM, and chairman

of the Council of Outdoor Specialists, which represents outdoor buyers,

adds: ‘The new joint industry committee is properly constituted as a

limited company, with equal shareholder status for contractors and


In concrete terms, this means that all future developments and marketing

will be decided jointly. It also means that, for the first time, buyers

will have an equal say in the structure of the medium’s own industry

research, thus bringing it into line with other major industry surveys.

The impetus behind the formation of a new industry committee, and the

drive for jointly funded research, was the very real need for

impartiality and credibility within the poster industry.

The new research, also christened Postar, launched earlier this week and

will become the new trading currency for buyers and sellers. The hope is

that confidence in the findings will be boosted by switching the basis

of research away from being media owner-funded.

Talk to any of the major players in the industry and they cite this

commitment to better research as one of Postar Limited’s key benefits.

As David Pugh, the marketing director of Mills and Allen, says: ‘This

will put posters on an equal playing field [with other media].’

Holliday believes that this improved trading currency will help the

medium promote itself generically and perhaps dispel for all time the

traditional hostility between buyers and sellers.

The other crucial element has been the appointment of an independent

chairman to steer the new industry partnership. Step forward Chris

Dickens, Postar Limited’s new non-executive chairman and the former

worldwide media director of Young and Rubicam.

Dickens was instrumental in launching the industry’s first measurement

system, Oscar, in 1985. He was chosen to head Postar because of his

wide-ranging experience on industry committees, although he now runs an

international communications consultancy.

As the chairman of the new body, he is more than happy with progress.

‘I’m pleased we’ve decided to brand the research and company as Barb and

Rajar are branded,’ he says.

Goodwin highlights one of the most important aspects of Dickens’

contribution: ‘It’s good to have an independent chairman. Dickens is


Holliday agrees: ‘An independent chairman can be actively engaged in

seeking agreement and setting the agenda for future research


By standing united under the umbrella of Postar Limited, the poster

industry can look forward to reaping many benefits. The improved

audience measurement system means buyers and sellers will operate within

better defined parameters. Buyers will be able to post-rationalise

campaigns and give advertisers greater confidence in product value.

In addition, contractors will negotiate from a value perspective and not

just from a cost concern. Attitudes and tensions between buyers and

sellers are bound to change. The industry’s new joint industry committee

can claim most of the credit for this fundamental shift. Holliday sums

it up: ‘The catalyst for change has been Postar and the driving force

has been Postar Limited.’

Some may feel it’s been a long time coming, but, as Dickens says:

‘Better late and right, than early and way off the mark.’

How the system works in other countries

France: The French don’t have a joint industry committee as such. There

is an Association des Afficheurs, which represents the contractors, but

there is no formal input from the buying side. The industry uses a

system of audience measurement called Affimetrie, launched in the mid-

80s and funded by the three major contractors, Avenir, Dauphin and

Giraudy. It is based on a questionnaire of people in major cities that

asks them about their movements during the previous week. Results are

mapped, computerised, projected, and compared with the total population.

Italy: The Italian market is very fragmented and there is no formal

agreement between contractors and buyers. There is no formal nationwide


Germany: The outdoor market is very regional, and there are just one or

two national contractors. There is no joint industry committee. Until

recently, the German market used a Nielsen market research system.

US: Last summer, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, which

represents the poster contractors, formed a16-member Advertising Media

Council, comprised of agencies and clients which plan and buy outdoor.

The AMC acts as a bridge between buyers and sellers, and the OAAA

depends on feedback from the smaller body.

Canada: The Canadian Outdoor Measurement Bureau represents the interests

of buyers, contractors and agencies. As a show of support, clients also

have voting powers to show that what the COMB does is credible from the

buyer side. The bureau provides each individual site with an audited

circulation number, and also supplies proof of performance through on-

site observation.


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