Report: Out-of-home Summit 2018
The out-of-home sector headed indoors this week to debate its future, and there was a sense of positive change in the air
This week hosted the very first Out-of-Home Summit from Mediatel, and that felt telling in its own right; it demonstrated, to us at least, that bosses at the major OOH businesses were in the mood to challenge, change and improve - all by coming together to debate.
Focusing on collaboration, better evidence gathering to prove the medium's effectiveness, and pushing forward with a more unified voice, there was plenty of positive news to report.
Yet there are clear challenges. OOH's revenues are high, but growth has been fairly static. At the end of 2017, GroupM trimmed its original 2% forecast for out-of-home advertising growth to zero. However, for 2018, the view is slightly more positive at +2% - "if promised improvements in effectiveness, automation and efficiency bear out".
Much of what was debated this week addresses those points.
To fairly discuss this topic we first need a caveat: it's important to note that the OOH sector already has, or at least had, a unifying champion - Outsmart. However, less than a year after it was launched in 2015, it was downsized and went from 'marketing body' status with ten staff to 'trade association' status with just two.
During Tuesday's summit, Outsmart was variously described as having had its 'limbs chopped off', to being 'fully decapitated'. Tellingly, one creative agency panellist admitted to never having heard of Outsmart.
So it was interesting that so much of what was said during the event could be remedied, in this reporter's opinion, by reinstating the organisation's function to match that of TV's Thinkbox, or publishers' Newsworks and Magnetic.
Whatever happens on that front is for another debate, but it was still clear that 'collaboration' was a new priority for the sector, and one that took different forms.
For Sophie Pemberton, strategy director, Talon Outdoor, if OOH is to improve itself and grow its share of adspend, it must shift its approach to working with other channels.
"Out-of-home must be more collaborative and less combative," she said. "There's no point in saying 'we can take social's budget, or TV's budget'. That's not going to work. We have to explain why it works alongside those channels."
Dallas Wiles, commercial director, JCDecaux, also said collaboration within the OOH sector is important.
"It's going to be challenging, but I think we need a mindset change, and if we don’t all change the mindset together, we won’t get success quicker," he said, echoing the change in approach the TV sector has recently made, which has seen competitive businesses set aside rivalries for the benefit of the wider market.
This idea was developed by Richard Simkins, creative solutions director, Exterion Media UK, who said the OOH sector needs to reassess the impact of competing against itself all the time, particularly in the emerging space of digital out-of-home (DOOH).
"We're constantly fighting for share, cannibalising ourselves," he said. The resulting "land grab" in the DOOH market is creating a diverse range of new advertising solutions, but that has also given rise to client and agency confusion about what is available to work with across multiple media owners.
If the industry could collaborate and simplify its collective offering, Simkins argued that the return on investment the whole sector has made in digital could be much higher.
"The investment media owners and landlords have made in digital out-of-home totals hundreds of millions of pounds - but has that generated a significant return on investment? I'm not sure it yet has."
As Primesight's CEO, Naren Patel, later said in the event's closing remarks: "We have developed digital before the market’s got there, and although I'm insanely optimistic about the future, this year I’m going to be paddling as hard as everyone else."
Perhaps if everyone in the sector took an oar each they would reach their destination that little bit quicker.
Video: Top priorities for the out-of-home industry in 2018
Better evidence gathering
Another clear priority for the OOH sector is to get better at proving its effectiveness. Yes, there are lots of individual studies covering lots of individual client campaigns, and Outsmart has done a good job with limited resources to fight the sector's corner, but there was no doubt from what we heard that adland is crying out for more.
"We increasingly have a number of clients who grew up in the digital world where there is a perceived accountability for measurement," said Sarah Walker, head of business planning, Essence. "But then suddenly you're telling them out-of-home has real power and can do something other channels can't - and they say 'prove it'. But there's very little to fall back on."
Walker added that there is a distinct gap here that is potentially holding back investment. "We simply need more independent, generic evidence," she said.
As chance would have it, the event coincided with the release of a new study into the effectiveness of OOH.
The report, compiled by industry analyst Peter Field and commissioned by Rapport in association with the IPA, examines 147 case studies of effectiveness advertising and marketing campaigns from the IPA’s Effectiveness Awards Databank and reveals that using OOH within ad campaigns increases market share growth by 36 per cent, boosts profit growth by 20 per cent and attracts 15 per cent more new customers compared to campaigns that shun OOH.
Further report highlights reveal OOH’s power in driving brand effectiveness and the nature of its relationship with other media.
It's a good story, well told. So the question is: will it be told loud enough to make an impact?
"The evidence is there and it’s been there for years," said Craig Mawdsley, joint chief strategy officer, AMV BBDO on Tuesday. "It’s just a case of hammering that message home."
With better independent evidence under the sector's belt, the next logical step - clearly made by numerous panellists during the debate - was to improve communication with the wider industry.
This took several guises. Firstly, simplifying OOH's proposition is the only real way to secure the creative buy-in for the sector's digital revolution.
"We have too many variants and that puts off creative agencies," said Simkins, so a unified, simple message about what is available is now essential to making better returns on digital investments.
Secondly, linking improved communication with wider industry collaboration would help amplify the right messages in a more effective way.
"We've never been bigger and we've never been better, but if we all start talking about different things, and talk over each other, no-one is going to hear us," said Talon's Pemberton.
"Imagine what it could be like if every single specialist and media owner in this room said the same thing at the same time to the agencies. We could have such a bigger and better voice - and so collaboration is therefore really important."
And as one of the remaining limbs at Outsmart, Tim Lumb, commented: "The message is there and has been for years - but the message needs to be communicated louder and more coherently."
Other reports from the event:
Mediatel operate two essential services for the OOH industry. SPACE is a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart and is the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of inventory in the UK. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution that enables easy integration of Route audience data into client's systems. See mediatel.co.uk for more information.