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Research has found new respect at Gannett Outdoor Group.

Gannett Outdoor has abolished its communications department and appropriated the resources supporting it for research.

"Research is a big switch," said Gannett Outdoor President-CEO Donald Davidson. Research, along with creative and customer service, now ranks among the top three client services offered by the leading out-of-home company.

Gannett made the decision to emphasize research a year ago, realizing "the needs of advertisers have changed," said Mr. Davidson, who declined to specify how much money is involved.

But with some of the money saved, Gannett has hired Joel Celestin, formerly sales development manager at Business Week, as research manager. That brings the number of department employees to three.

"Tobacco marketers knew [out-of-home] worked and didn't ask of us what today's advertisers are," Mr. Davidson said, referring to documentation new categories of marketers require about the medium's effectiveness.

With traditional TV and print advertisers-including fashion, retail and business/consumer marketers-using more outdoor boards, transit shelters and bus panels, the ability to quantify reach, targetability and consumer recall becomes all important.

Gannett is completing a yearlong Consumer Outdoor Recognition Study, which tracks awareness of outdoor campaigns in six U.S. markets.

A larger Gannett/University of Alberta study released in November showed outdoor ads that are humorous, intriguing and aesthetically repetitive are most likely to be remembered by Canadians. The finding rebutted the long-held client notion that outdoor campaigns should be literal and carry multiple messages.

"There's always a continuing need for that [studies]," said Stephen McNeely, president-ceo of Gannett rival Patrick Media Group. "Anything that they do will better serve the industry."

Gannett will continue to use data already available from Conquest, its demographic mapping system that links to independent research sources including Simmons Market Research Bureau. With Conquest, Gannett can provide current or potential clients with specific out-of-home locations and vehicles to use based on consumers media habits, product use and demographics.M

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