Clear Channel Outdoor Planning Awards celebrate strength of the industry

The commitment to outdoor advertising from the spectrum of agencies and businesses involved is greater than ever, if last week's Clear Channel Outdoor Planning Awards are anything to go by.

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The annual awards, organised in conjunction with Media Week, invited entries from a breadth of media agencies and clients and saw specialist Posterscope hit the headlines for playing a part in every top prize of the night.

The agency’s success was undoubtedly down in part to their exacting attention to detail following a few disappointing years at the annual event.

Having reportedly sought advice about where they were going wrong in their entries the homework paid off, earning them acclaim most notably for their work with PHD on the Grand Prize winner ‘Here Today, Goo Tomorrow’, the campaign for Cadbury Creme Egg.

Lindsay Weedon, chief executive of Maxus UK, who joined the awards judging panel for the first time, notes the strength of the campaign’s creative work.

She says: "The creative was very strong visually with colours than looked fantastic in outdoor, particularly on the 96-sheets.

"They adapted the creative for different formats which  meant there was bespoke creative on every site which is very unusual but it showcased the medium really well. You could tell the media and creative agencies and the specialist had worked very closely together."

It was this kind of team work that was evident across the board and which led the judges to conclude the sector is in better shape than ever before.

Steve Hatch, managing director of Mediaedge:cia UK, praised the standard of the technology that is now being used in outdoor advertising, attributing the rapid advancement to the consolidation of specialists such as Aegis’s Posterscope and WPP’s Kinetic. 

He pays special attention to the expeditious development of technology that is now being used in outdoor advertising.

He says: "The thing that shone through for me was how naturally people are incorporating technology now.

"A lot of activity that is being billed as experiential this year will be billed as mainstream in three to six months while not that long ago things that were considered experiential wouldn’t become mainstream for two or three years."

He adds: "People are no longer thinking along the old ‘rules’ that say you can only innovate in outdoor if it’s a campaign for a film release, music client or youth brand. That’s not the case anymore."

Hatch and Weedon stress the Posterscope clean sweep was purely accidental and not spotted by the judges until after they had completed the judging session.

Hatch believes the torch should shine with equal strength on the media agencies who submitted the awards entries.

He says: "In each case we looked at the work and the entries, which were agency-led. We thought of it as a PHD or Vizeum win, for example, not a Posterscope win. But of course they have all been well-advised by Posterscope along the way."

For Hatch the bigger picture that remains following the awards is the shot in the arm the out of home sector is currently enjoying.

He says: "The big take out I had from this compared to other awards I have judged was the great reminder that actually there’s a lot of mileage and creativity when looking at single channels. 

"We celebrate cross-channel a lot but does that question the importance of in-channel thinking? These awards prove it is not difficult to have broader levels of thinking in the medium."

Rob Atkinson, managing director of sponsor Clear Channel Outdoor, tells Media Week this year’s planning awards – the fourth – will be remembered for showcasing high levels of innovation.

"We are seeing more innovation across all the categories and a real breaking down of barriers," he says.

"The biggest trend is a strong collaboration between media, specialist outdoor, advertising, digital and mobile agencies and media owners and in addition to that brands are increasingly using the power of outdoor in the public social space to drive traffic online or in-store."

Ultimately, as with any advertising medium, no amount of innovation and collaboration can make a difference if the clients are not tempted to the medium. So it is with a sense of justifiable pride in his sector that Atkinson points out the flood of new brands to enter the out of home arena of late.

Q4 2009 and Q1 this year have shown strong growth, particularly among brands represented in the awards, and in categories such as food, finance, motors, telecoms and retail, he says.

The real success of the awards is the recognition by big blue-chip businesses who continue to value the importance of the outdoor sector to their communication and advertising strategies. There seems to be growing excitement about the awards which is linked to all the growing possibilities in outdoor media.

As the advertising industry in its entirety picks itself up and dusts itself down after an impossibly hard year it seems last weeks’ outdoor planning awards sent an important message.

Out of home advertising is in rude health and thanks to the commitment of the strong poster specialists the UK’s advertising scene has to offer, some of the world’s biggest brands are now getting that message too.

View a gallery of the winners on the night here.

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