Have marketers overlooked outdoor in the rush to earn consumer love? The new infatuation with all things digital is a heady rush for some brands, but what happens when the party is over? Is there an afterglow after the MMS, and where does this leave your brand health indicators?
There’s no doubt that outdoor advertising works, international ad spend forecast consensus places outdoor revenue share at 5.4% of global advertising spend in 2008, accelerating to 6.7% in the lead up to the World Cup.
Its role in building brands locally is well established, as is its efficacy in increasing retail purchaser rates. Audience delivery is virtually guaranteed, with the volume of traffic barely keeping up with surging urban populations. So why are we not seeing an enthusiasm for outdoor?
First, there is a patchwork of poorly co-ordinated regulatory frameworks.
Zoning and environmental impact assessment requirements differ in each metropolitan area, compromising media owners’ ability to deliver national campaign platforms. A slew of unresolved court challenges have left advertisers exposed to claims over the legality of sites spanning street pole ads, billboards on national highways and even the newly recapitalised taxis.
Outdoor remains the only medium where creative has to be submitted to local councils for approval. So much for deregulation.
Second, there is a dearth of creative talent in the outdoor medium.
As if being ridiculed by columnists each month for pedestrian work isn’t enough, the output from the advertising schools doesn’t inspire one with much hope for the future. Yet, a body of international work exists on how to create outdoor advertising that works.
Each year we are treated to Obie Awards, showcasing campaigns we could have run. Considering our agencies’ performance on the international creative tables, are advertisers giving their agencies enough time to craft outdoor creative work?
Third, the medium itself is poorly marketed. There are more column inches dedicated to bad outdoor creative than good.
Operators have no qualms about infringing on the public’s right to consultation. Production pricing leaves a bad taste in the mouth, limiting campaign implementation with creative ideas being consigned to the scrap heap due to prohibitive costs. The outdoor association is inward looking, and under resourced, with no coherent outreach programme to talk up the medium or support an improvement in creative output.
So how do we move forward?
For starters, how about OAASA (the Outdoor Advertising Association of South Africa) and the Creative Circle working closer to leverage the Loeries infrastructure to improve outdoor creativity?
It worked for print creativity. The FIFA Soccer World Cup host cities have all unveiled ambitious projects to revamp their public spaces ahead of 2010. Think and the broader design fraternity needs to inform the design language of each city to help them codify a visual signature that locates them as identifiable global cities.
That debate needs to look at the broader out-of-home offering, including street furniture, public artworks and landmarks.
It takes guts to recommend outdoor as a channel solution for most planners. We all know the medium works, but we’re never sure what implementation challenges we’ll get served up. It’s time for the outdoor fraternity to bring sexy back.