He’s moved from heading DStv Media Sales to taking charge of sales and marketing for global out of home group, JCDecaux (South Africa). While it’s a “significant shift”, Chris Hitchings is up for the challenge.
Having worked in television advertising sales for the last two decades, the move from television to out of home offered him an exciting chance within the media space. “I believe OOH is currently undergoing some fundamental positive change. The evolutionary shift from static to digital messaging, and the industry’s recent ability to provide accountable and accurate measurement through GRPs, are critical game changers and will no doubt result in OOH gaining share within the media mix,” Hitchings said.
Despite the differences in the sectors, there are synergies. “Ultimately all media owners should be looking to provide communication solutions to their clients and agency partners,” said Hitchings. “JCDecaux is a globally renowned brand, and already the market leader in its category in South Africa. My remit is to further entrench the local brand position of JCDecaux and grow our market share in the country.”
Hitchings said the perception that out of home was the “Wild West” was changing fast as more media science, accountability and rigour are applied to the sector. “Co-ordination of all the players in this space will not be without its challenges, but we must all work hard to ensure that OOH gains its rightful market share,” he said.
The OOH industry is one that’s becoming increasingly regulated. As Hitchings said, “Every industry has its own regulatory challenges and peculiarities, and OOH is no different. My specific remit will be primarily sales and marketing focused, but of course I will apply my mind to regulatory matters where required.”
The issues in the media sales realm require attention too. “More than ever, clients are being bombarded with a proliferation of media choices and the corporate expectation of short term results and increased accountability,” said Hitchings.
“Agencies are under severe margin pressure and as a result are often under resourced. As media owners, in order to become genuine business partners, we’d do well to listen a bit more and talk a bit less. It seems obvious, but a better understanding of our client’s needs will help us to propose real solutions to their communication problems, rather than simply selling ads.”
Hitchings reckons OOH has been purchased intuitively by clients and agencies without the ability to apply the rigour of standard media metrics to OOH campaigns. All this is changing. “The Outdoor Media Council (OMC) has made great strides in blending state of the art satellite technology with the detailed qualitative ROADsurvey resulting in available GRP’s on site by site basis,” he said. “This should provide clients with significantly greater comfort in their OOH campaign planning in the future.”