60 Second Spot: Mike Baker, chief executive, OAA

Mike Baker, who joined the Outdoor Advertising Association as its new chief executive on 24 May, tells Media Week why the trade body needs to go on the attack.

Mike Baker: chief executive of the Outdoor Advertising Association
Mike Baker: chief executive of the Outdoor Advertising Association

What was your career path prior to joining the OAA?

I fell into the media industry aged 30, when David Mansfield, now on the board of Ingenious Media, gave me my first break at Thames TV. From there, I worked at the (now-defunct) Sunday Correspondent and IPC before joining TDI, which became Viacom and then CBS Outdoor. After 12 years in outdoor, I spent a year out doing overseas outdoor consultancy work in Russia, Dubai and Spain, as well as launching the media CRM business, Media By Permission. I have been lucky enough to work across a range of media, but outdoor would definitely be my specialist subject on 'Mastermind'.

What were your first steps after you joined the OOA on 24 May?

I wrote to all our members because I need to acquaint myself with all the different parts of the association. We have four council members (JCDecaux, Clear Channel, CBS Outdoor and Primesight) but we also have about 30 additional members – niche outdoor companies such as ATM:ad, BlowUp and KBH, which does advertising in train interiors. These smaller players are often very successful operators; they have different landlords, audiences and dynamics and are opening up advertising opportunities in new locations. What this means is there is far more choice for media planners and advertisers these days, so the OAA’s job is to best represent the strengths of the OOH medium in all its forms.

What does the OAA need to achieve on behalf of the industry?

Outdoor media companies have looked with envy at the RAB, Thinkbox and the Newspaper Marketing Association, and want some of the profile those trade bodies have enjoyed for themselves. To use a football analogy, the OAA has traditionally done a very good job on defence – protecting media owners in terms of issues such as planning concerns, health and safety and regulation – but we now need to go on the attack to focus on promoting the medium and generating more revenue for media companies. For example, not many people know the OAA holds a huge amount of effectiveness research, which can be instrumental in helping persuade advertisers to put money into outdoor.

Outdoor’s share of the market has dropped from 10% to 9% over the past 18 months – how do you plan to reverse the trend?

Yes, outdoor’s share of the ad market has dropped, but the long-term trend is good. Over the past decade, outdoor’s share has increased from 5% to 10% so – barring the internet – OOH has been the number-one success story of the last decade. We had a blip in the past 18 months because, for example, advertising from financial firms fell 40% over that period. But all the top 60 advertisers spent some money on outdoor in the last 18 months, so it is encouraging that advertisers are finding some place in their media mix for outdoor and trying to utilise the medium in many different ways.

Outdoor hit the headlines in January with the OAA’s 'Career women make bad mothers' ad - how do you plan to bounce back from the controversy?

Historically, the OAA has been quite sure-footed in its campaigns to promote the medium, so this was the first blip. We will be more cautious next time – but, on the positive side, the outrage from Mumsnet shows outdoor is still capable of provoking a response. Two of the most complained-about ads of 2009 were ‘There’s probably no God’ and ‘There definitely is a God’ – but the wrath of God was negligible compared to the wrath of the Mumsnetters.

When will we see the next campaign from the OAA?

The potential to mobilise the incredible power of the hundreds of thousands of outdoor panels in the UK with co-ordinated messages is huge, so I am sure there are many good causes we can throw our weight behind. Watch this space.

What is your opinion of the OFT’s decision to investigate the market?

The OFT has started addressing the buying and the media-owner side of the industry, but they haven’t yet contacted the OAA. We are not a regulatory body as far as trading matters are concerned.

And what are the implications of the recent consolidation in OOH?

I don’t think the consolidation has any bearing on the OAA because, while we now have four council members instead of five, the number of non-council members is growing. The share of the number-one player in the market, JCDecaux, is less than the number-one player in TV, radio, online and cinema so we have no dominant, controlling player. And the industry has no barriers to entry – if you want to start up an outdoor business, you just have to find out what the new ambient medium is and try to find a market for it.

How significant is digital OOH?

Now 10% of outdoor is digital, people are starting to use the medium in interesting and creative ways – digital outdoor completely changes the game in terms of lead times, locations and the ability to count down to events and other topical changes, such as the lottery results. Planners have started getting wise to that, but there is a lot more to come. In October, we are co-hosting a digital outdoor seminar with the IPA, which will focus on peer-to-peer presentations where planners will talk about campaigns they have bought.

Which outdoor campaigns have caught your eye this year?

The Milk moustache campaign with Pixie Lott and Gordon Ramsay, the Nike Cromwell Road Mount Rushmore ad (although being cast in stone did no good for Walcott or Ferdinand), Cristiano Ronaldo in his Giorgio Armani pants, the Lavazza crosstrack series, Lurpak’s 48-sheets, the Chris Ofili poster for the Tate, or the multiformat Squarelicious campaign. The list goes on…

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