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Retail was the driving force behind a third-quarter 8.5% increase in out-of-home spending, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

Spending by retailers on outdoor boards, transit shelters and buses rose awhopping 95% from a year earlier, a major contributor to the overall $432 million in spending for the quarter.

For the first nine months of 1993, out-of-home spending was up 5.9% to $1.174 billion.

"Retail has burst on the scene during 1993," said Tom Norton, president of Norton Outdoor Co., who added that revenue generated by his company's 1,000 boards in the Cincinnati area increased 25% over the same quarter in 1992.

While technological advances like computer graphics and industry innovations like weekly changes in outdoor boards have made the medium more attractive, industry executives say they also believe retailers have come into outdoor on their own.

Mr. Norton said the main reason regional and local companies are gravitating to outdoor, and its wide reach, is because of the increasing fragmentation of TV.

"They're using outdoor and radio to compete with national chains and their TV advertising," he said.

Industry executives also said advertisers are looking to reach potential audiences at the cheapest possible rate.

"I honestly believe they identified us. Everybody knows that a lot of purchasing decisions are made when you're out driving," said Tommy Teepell, VP-national sales at Lamar Corp., a Baton Rouge, La., outdoor company.

Mr. Teepell noted regional retailers are emulating McDonald's Corp., Burger King Corp. and Levi Strauss & Co., which have tried out-of-home, found it to be successful and are back with new advertising.

Real estate, automotive and entertainment were also cited among the top ranking categories identified by OAAA, using its numbers and those of Competitive Media Reporting, up 30%, 22% and 16%, respectively.

Regional and small out-of-home companies are credited with much of the growth. "It's the business development efforts of the local sales force," said Gordon Hughes, OAAA president of marketing.

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