Outlook 2008: Out-of-Home

NEW YORK Out-of-home continues to be the second fastest-growing media sector after digital/interactive, with Pricewaterhouse-Coopers projecting 2008 growth of 9 percent to $8.12 billion and Veronis Suhler Stevenson predicting a more bullish 12.8 percent jump.

As dominant players including vendors like CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel Outdoor and buyers like Kinetic and Posterscope establish both their national and international businesses, Stephen Freitas, CMO of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, says out-of-home “is the first mass medium to have a global footprint. It’s the first time there has been an alignment of buyers and sellers on both sides of the negotiating table with that broad footprint.”

Consolidation is making buying outdoor advertising easier. With real-time information readily available today, “we can put a proposal together in an hour,” says Paul Meyer, president and COO of Clear Channel Outdoor.

Audience measurement is improving as well, as indicated by the industry’s push to create a national syndicated ratings initiative set to debut as soon as the third quarter. Executives hope that system will deliver real commercial ratings that not only can determine exactly how long a consumer’s eyes are locked on a specific ad, but also reveal demographics.

“This really could put us ahead of other media types, in terms of sound research,” said Jodi Senese, evp, marketing, at CBS Outdoor.

Execs also are getting a jump on green initiatives. The industry is ramping up a paste-less system for poster display, with all major companies expected to convert by the end of the first quarter. And efforts are under way to use new types of replacement bulbs, reducing the energy needs of billboards by half, reports Freitas.

But dominating out-of-home for the foreseeable future will be the sector’s push into digital, most notably the move to replace standard billboards with digital displays whose messages can be changed on the fly, a trend that has given buyers and sellers more flexibility. “Instead of one advertiser having ownership for a four-week period, you’re able to rotate six advertisers through the spectrum of each hour in a day, over the course of a day,” says Senese.

Technology, explains Zoom Media president Dennis Roche, “isn’t the enemy of out-of-home, it’s a friend.”