Although Competitive Media Reporting data shows outdoor board spending for the first nine months of 1999 up 9.7% over the previous year to an estimated $1.47 billion, Mr. Buntin says there could have been even greater industry gains if the outdoor business had been quicker to embrace backend technology.
"The things you can do on the Internet are just the reporting systems available to you for spot TV, spot cable and radio, where you can really localize media opportunities. . . That's not available for our business right now," says Mr. Buntin.
He adds, some companies "don't have a uniform system for their boards," he says. "There is no centralization. There is no technology model. Right now you have to go look at every outdoor [board]. That's like saying you're going to look at every TV before you buy. You can't do it," he says. "So that has got to go."
Jack Sullivan, VP-media director, out of home advertising for Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, partly agrees with Mr. Buntin.
"When it comes to out-of-home embracing technology, [companies] are slow but are starting to catch on," Mr. Sullivan says. "Our advertisers and the industry have been able to target where their consumers are, where they work, where they play and where they hangout-that has helped us better."
He says he sees Global Positioning System technology playing an exciting out-of-home role.
"A lot of signs are being GPS-coded. Who's to say these won't be able to issue a signal and have billboards collect information?" he says. "We are going to start knowing our consumers' driving habits and routes a bit better in the near future.
"I think the research will continue to grow. [By] knowing people's license plates and where they live, we will know who travels certain roads. The technology is there."
"The outdoor business has lagged mostly behind because [it has] been preoccupied with mergers and acquisitions," says Mr. Buntin.
"Because of what's going on with the Internet, there are some possible new directions we can move in," says Diane Cimine, VP-marketing for the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
"Outdoor will become more interactive," says Ms. Cimine, who adds that there is already some interactivity in the industry. "Currently, there are some ads with motion detectors at bus shelters. A billboard can tell you to turn to your radio or call an 888-number to get more information about the product."
"Outdoor is still a hip medium," says Mr. Sullivan. "People are having more fun. Their miles driven are going up. . . And the only medium that can reach them is outdoor."