Global gatecrashes OOH; and Forrester's 'pyramid of piffle'

24 Sep 2018  |  Dominic Mills 
Global gatecrashes OOH; and Forrester's 'pyramid of piffle'

How will Global's move into out-of-home change the structure of an industry on the point of consolidation, asks Dominic Mills. Plus: Why Forrester's study of the world of big media agencies is a joke.

Hmm, how many of us saw Global’s double swoop last week on OOH coming? The word’s third oldest medium crashes into bed with the oldest.

Moves in their home markets by Netflix and Alibaba into OOH last month triggered some speculation - thought by some to be a plant in order to stoke up competitor interest - in the UK about Global and Outdoor Plus, but no-one expected Primesight to be added to the shopping basket.

Around the close-knit club that is OOH, you could hear the jaws drop. An outsider has gatecrashed a private party. The certainties are no more. There will be winners and losers.

At the broader level, three things are going on. One, OOH is ripe for consolidation, at least in the UK, given the level of private equity ownership. At some point, they will always sell.

Two, Global, an undoubted success story, is limited in its capacity for expansion, other than online and festivals, both natural extensions of radio and which it is already exploiting. Why would it stop with just two OOH contractors?

Three, of the legacy media, radio and OOH are performing well, demonstrating some immunity from the digital duopoly onslaught. Indeed, digital OOH is powering ahead, offering 63% coverage nationally and Route upping the number it measures by 40% over the last year.

When you take that perspective, Global’s move is not much of a surprise. Industry reaction, on Mediatel here, is positive.

But how will it change the structure of an industry on the point of consolidation? For starters, Ocean’s position as the likely consolidator - armed with cash from its forthcoming stock market float - is under threat from Global.

The smaller players – led by 8Outdoor, Admedia, City Media – will be happy. Competing buyers will push up acquisition prices.

A big five – Decaux, Global, Exterion, Ocean and Clear Channel – may become a big four as and when Clear Channel’s future is sorted. But remember, Decaux can’t buy. So all the while its lead will be whittled away.

Specialists meanwhile will be squeezed. An industry dominated by four or five big selling points won’t need them in the same way a fragmented one does.

And, unlike JC Decaux, Global is a long-time supporter of industry marketing efforts, first (as Capital) with the Radio Advertising Bureau and now the Radiocentre. Who knows then, Global may lead efforts at some point to revive OOH industry marketing efforts.

The trick, for Global, will be to find the cash to invest in further digitisation, and then extend its DAX platform across both with a real focus on geo-location targeting. Applying DAX to DOOH is a potential game-changer in an area where OOH is struggling to come up with a scaled proposition, let alone a cross-platform one. But a hefty amount of cash will be required - about 75% of Primesight’s estate is paper and paste.
There’s no doubt that this combination can push Global further up the pole with media buyers. While its biggest radio rival, Bauer, could also talk about its publishing properties, Global has some shiny new toys to add to the mix.

Pyramid of piffle

I am, I confess, a sucker for a little alliteration - thanks Boris - hence the headline about Forrester.

In case you missed it, Forrester last week published an apparently forensic study of the world of big media agencies titled The Forrester Wave.

Business Insider, which covered the report, took an alarmist point of view, with talk of apocalypses and death beds. Strong stuff. But, in reality, clickbait.

There was nothing new in the BI coverage, merely a rehashing of old news. To the contrary, I’d say, it’s out of date: media agencies have begun to clean up their act, although we can argue about the degree.

The real interest is further down, where Forrester attempted, in a quasi-scientific way, to mark and rank the eight largest media agencies across 23 criteria in three categories: current offering, strategy and market presence.

The eight are: UM, Zenith, Starcom, Carat, OMD, Mindshare, Mediacom and Wavemaker. The likes of PHD and Havas must, I guess, fall below the $20bn billings threshold.

The criteria, each with a different weighting, included planning, insights, delivery, content development, brand safety strategy, analytics, tech development and so on.

There’s at least one glaring absence, by the way: commitment to effectiveness or measurement, depending on how you choose to frame it.

That aside, so far, so good. I don’t doubt that something like this could be useful to any CMO, although I imagine the specialist pitch consultants have similar scorecards.

For the record – and let’s give them the plaudits – UM came top of the scorecard, followed by Zenith. Its post here also shows a visual of the Forrester chart (You can read Zenith’s brag post here, plus a visual of the Forrester chart).

Next, ranked as ‘Strong Performers’, came Starcom and Carat, with Starcom just edging it. On the fringes, billed as ‘Contenders’ (a puzzling description, as we shall see) came the three WPP agencies and OMD.

This may or may not accord with your own views of the relative strengths of these eight agencies, but it is the point at which the whole report reveals itself to be a pyramid of piffle.

That’s because the four ‘Contenders’ refused to take part in the exercise, leaving Forrester with a gaping hole in its methodology. Thus, for example, where it scored UM a 5 for its strategic roadmap, those that didn’t play ball all scored a 1.

And how did Forrester go about filling the hole? First, interviews with at least two clients – which may be helpful in an absolute sense, but is useless (unless the client has worked recently with at least one of the others) when it comes to relative scoring.

Second, it used surveys (one going back to 2016) and, well, the trade press. As a member of that estate, I can tell you that journalists form their opinions by a) talking to people and b) using proxies such as new business, client retention, awards, new hires, public announcements and so on. Rigorous or scientific, this is not.

You can form a good picture by these methods, but you cannot really tell what is going on under the bonnet, certainly in less public areas such as analytics, tech development and commitment to brand safety.

The best analogy I can come up with for this pointless exercise is this: Forrester invites the eight fastest sprinters to a 100m race at the Olympic stadium. Four cry off with injury. Forrester insists they take part, even though they can only limp. It then sells tickets to CMOs.

The race is a farce, the results a joke. And the CMOs wonder why they paid $2,495.00 for the privilege.

As for the winners, they can enjoy their moment on the podium, but the taste of victory will be tainted.

Facebook: a hint of culture change

No doubt congratulating themselves on the success of last Thursday’s Global Measurement Partner summit in London, some Facebook executives may have woken up to a less-than-welcome surprise: a blast across the bows from the mighty GroupM, criticising its measurement efforts as lacking in ‘real-world’ relevancy.

Oops. That surely is not a headline they would have been expecting, not least, as one Facebook executive admitted to me, as it tries to up its game in measurement and transparency thereof.

Certainly, coming off the back of series of scandals/missteps (take your pick) and schoolboy counting errors, any change in the Facebook approach is welcome.

Last week, for the benefit of a couple of hundred delegates from its 40+ measurement partner programme, Facebook laid out the key tenets of its approach. These include: a focus of transparency; impartial, independent measurement; cross-platform reach so that campaigns can be measured. In a nutshell, it means a focus on real people and away from black-box solutions that purport to track them but in reality fail to do so.

Is this real? GroupM may not think so, but delegates seem willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. “This is a new approach, a bit of a culture change. There is definitely an admission of previous complacency,” they said.

My own experience of Facebook transparency in operation was a little double-edged. Yes, they invited outsiders like me in (thanks). But we weren’t allowed to sit in on an advertiser discussion panel. Let’s see if this transparency is more than skin-deep.

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17 Jun 2019 

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