SUPPLEMENT: What next for outdoor?

Once an advertising backwater, outdoor is set to become the last mass medium. Claire Beale reveals its potentialÿ20but plays into the ands of rersand MPs inue to press for a bacco ad ban at MPs continue to press for a bacco ad ban at home, rsand MPs continue to press for a tobacco ad ban at MPs continue to press for a tobacco ad

Once an advertising backwater, outdoor is set to become the last mass

medium. Claire Beale reveals its potentialÿ20but plays into the ands of

rersand MPs inue to press for a bacco ad ban at MPs continue to press

for a bacco ad ban at home, rsand MPs continue to press for a tobacco ad

ban at MPs continue to press for a tobacco ad

In a world of dizzying media fragmentation, posters can seem to be the

dinosaurs of advertising.

But take a closer look, and you find that the outdoor medium is making

real progress in positioning itself for this future. As David Pugh, the

commercial director of Mills and Allen and a former marketing director

of the Daily Telegraph, says: ‘I joined this industry because it has a

great deal more potential than it is currently achieving.’

Not that the medium has been treading water. In the past two years

poster contractors have entered a new era of communication and co-

operation to help promote the benefits of the medium, as signalled by

the 1994 industry conference in Sorrento. Then there was the recent

launch of Postar Limited, the poster committee which comprises

advertisers, poster buyers, the poster contractors and advertising

agencies - an industry forum that encapsulates the new spirit of


Pugh believes that Postar will help to set in motion a virtuous circle

where outdoor appears on more media schedules, there’s more money to

invest in improving the medium, which in turn becomes an increasingly

attractive vehicle for advertisers. Postar will provide a platform for

more targeted poster packages and new packages aimed at reaching more

discrete audiences such as young people or businessmen. Such

developments are likely to draw in new advertisers previously deterred

by the hitherto unwieldy nature of planning the medium.

Yet opportunities for expanding the poster market are likely to be

juxtaposed by a further contraction in the number of players controlling

the medium. While outdoor is sure to be dominated by a small number of

major contractors well into the next century, more sales and marketing

agreements with smaller poster companies around the country will also

concentrate power into the hands of a few, perhaps to the benefit of the

industry overall.

Nigel Mansell, managing director of the poster specialist, Concord,

agrees that concentration could be a good thing: ‘If there are fewer,

larger players, there will be more consistency within the medium and

outdoor will be able to compete more effectively against other media.’

In the face of such media-owner empowerment, the status of the poster

buying specialist is sure to come under the spotlight. With the

complexities of more detailed audience measurement, the ability for

greater targeting and the need for buying muscle to match the selling

power of the contractors, the buying of poster campaigns is expected to

become the provenance of just a handful of super specialists.

Mansell believes that ‘there will be a need to ensure that the

concentration of media-owner power doesn’t lead to a rise in the cost of

poster campaigns, and this means buying points must equal the strength

of the sales operations. Smaller buyers could find themselves at a

disadvantage over the next couple of years.’

As the buyers and sellers realign into more powerful groupings, so the

poster medium itself is set to emerge in the multimedia future as a more

powerful advertising vehicle.

Posters, by their very nature as a public medium, will never be able to

offer the direct personal communication that the interactive future

promises. But as niche media increase, and advertisers have to spend

more time and money finding their target consumers, outdoor could well

find itself the only remaining mass medium. Already staunch TV

advertisers such as Procter and Gamble are testing the effectiveness of

the poster medium as they try to make their ad budgets work harder.

But what will all of this mean for outdoor’s share of advertising

revenue? Vincent Slevin, managing director of More O’Ferrall Adshel,

predicts a rough increase from the current 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent

within the next ten years. Dennis Sullivan, chairman of the specialist

buyer, Portland Outdoor, believes a 1 per cent growth in share every

five years is achievable.

Pugh is more cautious but is adamant that the medium will prosper: ‘The

one thing you can say with absolute confidence is that this industry is

underperforming by quite some way. As other media fragment, there’ll be

something seriously wrong if we can’t increase our share of ad revenue.’

As such there will be more money to invest in the product and new

technology to improve the quality, targeting and accountability of the


Bar coding, new printing technology, 3-D posters, interactive kiosks,

posters that dispense money-off coupons to encourage product trial,

posters sold by daypart and viable flat-screen technology that will

transfer some poster sites into giant television screens - all are now

well within the reach of contractors and advertisers.

In true outdoor style the transformation will probably happen slowly and

involve a few false starts. What we can bank on, however, is that the

major poster contractors will continue to search for new ideas to make

their medium more effective. And if the industry ever does fulfil its

ambition to be the last mass medium, you can bet there will be more than

a few advertisers urging it on.

New dimensions for outdoor’

Once posters were static and two-dimensional. No longer. Guinness’s 1995

St Patrick’s Day campaign, in conjunction with More O’Ferrall Adshel,

used new technology to depict an empty beer glass during the day, with

the line ‘Unhappy St Patrick’s Day’. In the evening, using special

lighting, the glass appeared to fill up and the line changed to ‘Happy

St Patrick’s Day’.

MOFA was also the contractor responsible for bringing a scantily clad

Eva Herzigova to the nation’s high streets for a Christmas campaign from

Wonderbra. The radical technique involved superimposing Eva on to a

photograph of the street scene, creating the illusion that she was

actually standing in the bus shelter.

Mills and Allen used a unique coating for its Vauxhall Cross site in

London to illustrate the effects of pollution. The execution, for the

National Asthma Campaign, used a special glue pasted over the poster

that attracted dirt and dust over a period of days to reveal the line

‘Imagine what your lungs must look like’.

For Pepsi’s blue relaunch, MOFA designed a moulded plastic casing for

its Adshels, creating a huge 3-D Pepsi can which stood out from the bus


M&A is working on a new system for its tri-vision sites to allow them to

be rotated by daypart. Advertisers could target the morning drive-time

audience, housewives in the daytime and so on.

As Mansell says: ‘Imagine the value of national networks of sites

converted to back-projection and controlled centrally. Perfect

reproduction, illumination and the ability to buy exactly the audience

the advertiser seeks, in the appropriate environment for the product,

would accelerate outdoor’s record of growth and offer a flexible, true

broadcast alternative to television.’


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