In yesterday’s post about Zoom Media and Marketing’s acquisition of Gym Screenmedia in the UK we wrote “outside the top 4 or 5 traditional media owners, has the UK digital out of home sector ever been in such a sorry state?” and that ladies and gentlemen got us thinking.
It’s NOT actually as bad as it looks and in many ways it doesn’t even need to be ‘spun’ to look good because it is good! We got straight on the phone to people who know much more than us (James Davies at Posterscope for one) and also got in touch with many of the senior execs that we admire in the UK digital industry and here’s what we found out.
In yesterday’s post we wrote “The UK bar industry is rather under served at the moment what with the very recent demise of ASG Media (they only had 330 bars at the last count anyway) and Brightspace Media who have pretty much shut up shop on the Kaleidovision network” and we questioned what that meant for Sub.tv.
James Davies told us “SubTV tends to suffer from people having a rather narrow minded view of students, whereas the truth is that they do have higher than expected disposable incomes”
He added “(the SubTV network) despite a relatively low number of venues (93 Universities), a typical 2 week campaign will reach 5.2% of 18-24 year olds nationally and find them in much the same mindset as any other youth orientated bar”
Whilst this isn’t a massive number it’s a much larger number than most would think and so Sub.tv is fairing rather well at present.
James also told us that “Outside of CBS Outdoor, Titan, Clear Channel and JCDecaux, there are media owners who are performing well, especially given the current climate”.
He added “The likes of atmAd, Ocean, Forrest, City Gateway Media, abc media, EYE and others are all positive indicators. One only needs to look at the experience of the staff at Digicom for example which suggests that they will also contribute heavilty to the success of DOOH advertising in the UK.”
James Porter at City Gateway Media told us “In 2009 the company has enjoyed revenue growth in excess of 125% and has seen a significant uplift in new brands utilising its screens”
He added “Our focus has always been to deliver a highly professional service to our trading partners, demonstrating flexibility and innovation in our approach. We are currently developing a fully interactive campaign service which we believe will set a new benchmark in DOOH in the UK”
Since EYE entered the UK market three years or so ago they have helped pioneer the rollout of digital formats across airports in the UK. EYE seems to take a best-in-class approach to their media investment, both digital and non-digital, matching the most appropriate technology to the chosen locations to enhance the environment and ultimately the passengers’ journey. Regular readers will know that we are big fans of what they have been doing.
EYE is also one of the best at research (and publishing it for everyone’s benefit). Recently the company has supported their media investment with an insights study using cutting edge Eye Tracking technology (the study has also been rolled out across Singapore, New Zealand and the UK and includes both static and digital media).
Justin Stark, Head of media sales at atmAd told us “2009 has been a landmark year for atmAd; our media network has grown five-fold to become the UK’s largest digital screen network and revenues have increased by over 70% in the first half of the year”
He added “There’s no doubt that in 2010 the market will be challenging, but atmAd is a proven digital platform and we will continue to champion its effectiveness as a national route to audience.”
Grant Branfoot, Managing Director, Ocean Outdoor told us when we reached him on the phone “Ocean Outdoor was founded on the principle of creating premium outdoor advertising locations which offer the best possible showcase for the world’s leading brands, and digital is absolutely integral to this offering”
Grant told us exclusively that as a business they have three BRAND NEW digital sites coming up when he added “Our portfolio already includes Europe’s largest digital media wall, and we have launches of three further spectacular digital sites coming up in the next six to eight weeks”
James Davies also commented on Clear Channel’s ‘Socialite’ portal, see our post October 2008 ‘Clear Channel Outdoor’s Pub and Bar Network‘
James believes that it will, and we quote “prove much more successful than existing bar screen networks as it will finally break away from the shackles of being considered as a TV-like medium, whilst delivering significant scale”.
This is of course assuming that all goes to plan for Clear Channel in securing venues and highly visible locations inside!
In the UK at present (as in many other countries) most of the growth in ad revenue is through the major media owners but James Davies tells us that “this is primarily a function of sheer investment and over time smaller players will benefit”.
He adds “Rather than worrying about the majors, other networks should look for opportunities that arise from their success”.
James and I have discussed this at length many times before and we both agree that this might be through consistency of format and sales approach, the increased likelihood of suitable creative being developed and the funding of research projects that extol the generic benefits of digital.
I also personally believe that OVAB Europe has a major part to play in this. Dirk Huelsermann, President OVAB Europe not surprisingly agrees and told us “Networks need to gain trust and confidence with the agencies and brands. This is the mission of OVAB Europe to gain such trust and confidence”
He added “OVAB Europe is an independent industry body working on developing a common media currency via standards such as proof of play and audience metrics. It is essential, that all companies in the industry that wish to push the industry forward towards a multi billion business, join an association to establish digital out of home in the wider media industry”
Of course many of Posterscope’s digital research projects bring together media owners of all sizes with collaboration delivering findings that would be difficult to uncover with smaller research budgets. James told us “The quality of insight, sales and marketing materials from the majors will, I hope, also put pressure on any players that are not delivering in these areas and help professionalise the sector as a whole”.
Our conversations here don’t even include ALL of the networks that we admire: –
- Zoom Media and Marketing now of course offer advertisers a national network of 650 digital venues under the stewardship of the well regarded Jill Lee. This network can only go from strength to strength.
- CAN Media is doing incredibly well and consistently posts a profit.
- Whilst we don’t personally like the one-size fits all approach of Amscreen and their horribly named ‘close-proximity units’ we were the first to tell you that they would be well on their way to 20,000 screens by the end of 2009. Like it or not these guys are going to be successful.
- And just like James Davies says, you just have to admire Digicom. Like Neo Media Group and Zoom Media they recruit the best and most knowledgeable people and will do much to improve our industry in the UK – perhaps though they could have a little ‘shell-like’ in the ear of Simon and his Dad 😉 about the screens
The main losers in the UK DOOH industry of course are those who are no longer with us. This year we have seen the demise of many, including Vision Media Group (VMG), the mobile screen folks at AdWalker, Streetbroadcast who spectacularly flamed out and of course most recently ASG Media (nee Avanti Screenmedia).
Three of those four were UK Alternative Investment Market (AIM) listed companies leaving a further sour taste in the mouths of the private investors who bet on the sector.
Mind you, even when you are seemingly dead and buried you can return and make a mark. Dominic Brookman from the new-VMG rang us earlier this week to excitedly tell us that “VMG have gone live with new 6-sheet Pods in the Trafford Centre”
James summed up our little conversation (well quite a long conversation, and what a long post this has turned into as well) by saying that “I would argue that the sector has been in a much worse state in the past than it is now”
He added “Just look at the increases in quality, research, understanding, creative and importantly audiences. The latter has grown by 103% since 2006 (Source: Posterscope)”
“Of course this doesn’t apply to every single network and some may have been unfair victims of circumstance but in totality the sector is in a great position”.