AS ever, a lot's been happening in outdoor of late and the media owners' long-standing desire to commoditize the medium seems to be gaining support from certain members of the buying community.
Across most of Europe, outdoor is a packaged market. Through a haze of sangria on the coach from the airport, we've all seen those ugly sprawls of tatty posters 200 yards from the road. People buy them because, in return, they get a few high-value corkers in city centres. It's a school of thought which says you take the wheat with the chaff and if a number of sites are of poor quality or irrelevant to the specific needs of the advertiser then, so what, outdoor is a mass medium. It's big and bold and, as long as the numbers add up, who needs to bother about time-consuming planning?
In this scenario, buying becomes a no-brainer, a few pack deals and the job is done. Why bother with a field force and who the hell is ever going to visit Cleethorpes, anyway?
Here in the UK we are fortunate that the presentation of sites is of a high standard. Illumination levels have risen and the emergence of back-lit pvc displays has put outdoor on a par with glossy of magazine ads. But that doesn't mean the skills of planning and buying a campaign have diminished.
The ability to formulate the right campaign is as important as ever - the number of poster contractors may have dwindled, but there are still more than 120,000 roadside locations spread across all parts of the UK, along with a whole host of transport displays and a plethora of ambient opportunities. The medium requires specialization.
Outdoor advertising is complex and the rewards for advertisers are enormous with displays utilizing all the benefits outdoor has to offer. Add to this Postar, the most sophisticated and honest measurement system in media, and you have that nice warm feeling you get when you know you've done the job properly.
It's in the interests of media owners to sell as quickly and as easily as possible, but we're not media owners, we are the custodians of our clients' money and have a responsibility to do the job in the manner they would wish.
I think clients believe Cleethorpes does matter, and if the commoditizing of the medium is allowed to flourish and becomes the accepted norm then, in my view, the real losers will be the advertisers themselves.