Out of Home: Industry focuses on flexibility, metrics

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The out-of-home ad industry aims to live up to Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy's recent prediction to the Chicago Advertising Federation that outdoor advertising could "remain the only mass medium of the future."

To do so, however, the $5.2 billion industry is working to counter perceptions that it is not sufficiently measured and flexible or creative enough. "The outdoor medium is looked upon as being the least flexible," said Don Davidson, former CEO of Gannett Outdoor and chairman of the advisory board of Magink, which is addressing the problem by developing full-color digital ink displays that allow creative to change multiple times a day. "With this format we would take it to being the most flexible."

pilot programs

Mr. Davidson said that for example, a fast-feeder could advertise breakfast specials during the morning drive and late night drive-through after 10 p.m.

Pilot programs have started in the U.K. with Clear Channel, as well as Pattison Outdoor, Canada, and display networks are expected to be in the U.S. by the end of the year. In Canada, Ford Motor Co. is an advertiser, although no clients have signed for the U.S. yet.

San Carlos, Calif.-based Reactrix, meanwhile, is mixing advertising with entertainment using floor and wall displays that react when prompted by movement. The images can liquefy when walked on, or bounce when kicked or poked.

While still in the testing phase, Reactrix displays have promoted 20th Century Fox's film "Daredevil" and have been projected in the Toys "R" Us store in New York City's Times Square, as well as malls in California. The unique value of Reactrix displays, said co-founder and CEO Jon Friedberg, is the entertainment aspect.

Outdoor Advertising Association President Nancy Fletcher thinks the advances could also bolster business with package goods, a sector she thinks should be using outdoor more frequently. The top outdoor categories are largely local in nature, led by local services and amusements; public transportation; resorts and hotels; and retailers.

What will also help is data tracking effectiveness. Both Arbitron and Nielsen Outdoor are in the beginning stages of building an outdoor ratings system measuring not just traffic but demographics.

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