The Week: Best of the blogs - The new spirit of outdoor

Digital outdoor advertising will be the most interesting format of the next ten years. With a little thought, it can also do something for the reputation of the ad industry.

One exciting aspect is that the posters move. But, perhaps more interesting: they change. Unfortunately, they also share with conventional billboards that problem with which ad people have expressed discomfort. They do nothing for the people who are forced to look at them. This is not to say great poster advertising cannot be a pleasure to look at - it can. But whereas all other forms of ads (bar spam and, arguably, direct mail) clearly bring a secondary benefit to a voluntary viewer or reader (by paying for the programmes or subsidising the coverprice of a magazine or newspaper), this is not true of outdoor. With the exception of Adshels, which do provide some of their readers with temporary accommodation, they probably, on balance, damage the environment.

Sites could pay their way if it were agreed among the contractors that 20 to 30 per cent of all messages on large outdoor screens were to be for the benefit of the wider community. News reports, weather forecasts, travel news, sports scores, local ads, art, poetry, philosophy ...

This would prevent a big surplus of inventory, and mean that many screens would increase dwelltime. Anyone who remembers Poems on the Underground will know of the public affection this kind of thing can generate. The trick will be to make sure some of it rubs off on the ad industry.


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