Out-of-home ad spend is growing steadily and digital is set to double by 2020, but the big breakthrough will come when digital sites extend across the country, according to the Primesight Chief Executive.
Out-of-home ad spend is projected to exceed £1bn in 2014; this is a milestone for a market that has posted year-on-year growth since 2009. Primesight Chief Executive Naren Patel is exhilarated at the prospect and remains bullish on gaining market share: “We’ve grown share. This year, we’ve gone past ten per cent of the industry. Last year, nine per cent, before that eight per cent. Our current mantra is ‘12 per cent by 2020’. That’s our current push. One per cent is £100m spend and you are generally taking it away from someone else who doesn’t want to give it up. It’s tough. I think we’ll continue to grow share and I think digital will take it.”
While digital is providing great leverage for out-of-home, from spectacular outdoor screens to mobile proximity marketing, Patel believes in the simplicity of intelligently targeted branding communicated with a powerful message on a billboard. “The need for brands to shout a message across the country in one go that’s uniform – I don’t think anything else can do it like outdoor. It interrupts your day with an engaging narrative. The big challenge is creative, and I don’t think there is enough creative done specifically for outdoor,” he says.
Elected chairman of the Outdoor Media Centre (the industry’s trade body) in 2013, Patel is an energetic advocate for the effectiveness of outdoor and is confident in technology driving efficiency and creativity – and not providing the audience fragmentation that has challenged other traditional media platforms. “What digital has done with other media on the fragmentation point has hurt those media channels, while digital helps outdoor. It’s a totally different role. It provides flexibility, immediacy, nice screens and interesting content. Fifteen years ago, people didn’t really believe that,” he explains. Technology is powering the potential for mobile proximity marketing, with iBeacon and Proxama delivering vouchers and further engaging customers on the move. Equally, outdoor is finding a position as a second screen to mobile and powering brand searches. “We have several case studies that show outdoor drives search. Guess what? Where you have more posters, the density of search for these brands in those areas is higher. Posters work. We drive search, and you have to believe that we will also be good at driving mobile search. If you are out and you see a sign, it’s only natural that you find something interesting and Google it,” he says.
Balancing digital and non-digital
The pressure to invest in digital in 2014 is evident, and this is gathering momentum with outdoor as it provides a platform for eye-catching innovation in a space that thrives upon visual stimulation. But Patel is confident in the heritage of non-digital too. “The thing that’s interesting is the digital/traditional balance – too much on digital and not enough on traditional. Looking at it on an effectiveness basis,you probably won’t spend as much money on digital as you are currently spending. You are spending it now because it’s new. Every media planner has to have digital on their plan, so it gets bought. No one will get told off for buying a nice digital site. If they buy a billboard under an arch that doesn’t look great, they probably will, even thought it might have a bigger audience. I think that is what is going to be interesting over the next two or three years.”
Digital out-of-home is now driving growth that is expected to rise from a 26 per cent share of overall out-of-home revenue to 50 per cent by 2020. It is growth that will need to be backed by investment from the industry to ensure nationwide digital billboard coverage, according to Patel. “Digital does provide capacity. The problem is that digital is concentrated mainly in London. I’d say 94-95 per cent of digital billboards are in London. There isn’t the coverage across the UK. That’s what we’re looking at now doing and I’m sure others will be as well.”
Reflecting on the impressive performance for outdoor media, Patel announces: “The forecasts are really good and Sir Martin Sorrell recently said outdoor is going to outperform all traditional media in the near future.” And with a hearty laugh, he adds: “I wonder if we can get their prices up?”
Words by Jeremy Abbott, Photography by Peter Searle
The article was first published on 6th November by BRAD Insight.