Special Report: Out-Of-Home Media: Associations working to bolster out-of-home

Bob Reaume is president of both the Outdoor Advertising Association of Canada and the Canadian Outdoor Measurement Bureau. He was appointed to the positions Feb. 21. For five years before that, Reaume was vice-president of marketing at the Association of Canadian...

Bob Reaume is president of both the Outdoor Advertising Association of Canada and the Canadian Outdoor Measurement Bureau. He was appointed to the positions Feb. 21. For five years before that, Reaume was vice-president of marketing at the Association of Canadian Advertisers. His career includes media, client and agency experience. Strategy asked Reaume to provide his perspective on the out-of-home industry as he nears the half-year mark.

Just six months ago, I stepped outdoors, and into an industry that was in the midst of great change.

In this short period of time, both organizations that I now oversee, the Outdoor Advertising Association of Canada (oaac) and the Canadian Outdoor Measurement Bureau (comb), have undertaken significant new projects.

For the oaac, it’s the Billi Awards, which, this September, will honor the best in English-language outdoor creative; and for comb, it is the new proof of performance system (popeye) that will dramatically improve the auditing of the outdoor medium.

A primer

More about these in a minute, but first allow me to offer a short primer on these two organizations.

A trade association, the oaac is in its 91st year of operation and is, we believe, the oldest advertising association in North America.

With over 30 members coast-to-coast, oaac represents companies with over 95% of the standardized, measured outdoor panels in the country.

comb is an independent, tripartite media measurement organization composed of advertisers, advertising agencies and outdoor operators.

Its main function is to verify traffic circulation for the benefit of the ad industry and its users.

comb provides audience data for posters, bulletins and superboards, mall posters, street level advertising and electronic message signs.

4% share

The out-of-home category is certainly not the biggest advertising medium around — it enjoys about a 4% share and revenues somewhere around $150 million per year – but it may be the fastest growing. (How many media can boast 6% growth rates these days?)

The point is, we’re smaller, so we have to work harder.

comb, for example, not only generates and verifies circulation research data (not unlike PMB Print Measurement Bureau), but now undertakes the audit function as well (in the same manner as the Audit Bureau of Circulations).

Last month, comb took over the proof of performance audit system for the outdoor industry and established ‘popeye’ which stands for Proving Outdoor Performance, Ensuring Yearly Equity.

comb’s new popeye system increases the number of random audits performed each year to 6,000 from the current 1,000, giving buyers of outdoor advertising greater confidence in the medium and the assurance that sellers of the medium are maintaining high standards.

The 6,000 randomly selected sites per year will ensure a statistically high degree of reliability.

As well, popeye will be able to detect if an outdoor advertising seller is meeting its obligations to buyers, and trigger the issue of a caution notice to the seller.

Once a year, comb will also issue an annual general statement of performance to comb members which will summarize total audit results.

As an added fee service, comb will offer outdoor buyers and clients campaign-specific audits at a reasonable cost.

Agencies and clients will also benefit from the report standardization component of popeye.

For the first time, all outdoor operators in the country will confirm details of the purchase, including locations, dates, gross rating points, circulations, post-analysis and so on, in easy-to-read, more complete standardized reports.

The new popeye system, as well as a new in-house database of all the outdoor panels in the country, represent a maturing for comb – two giant steps toward taking control of our own destiny.

Over at the oaac, the biggest news in a long time is that the association will be taking over the `Billi’ Awards (Billboards…. Billi…get it?) from Billis founder and outdoor supplier Mediacom.

For the past 16 years, these awards have honored the best in English-language outdoor creative.

Gold, silver and bronze awards are given in the vertical, horizontal and campaign categories, as well as merit awards for public service campaigns and special craft awards.

The time is right for the association to take on these awards.

In my opinion, this is a terrific opportunity for the association to showcase the power and creativity of outdoor advertising on behalf of the entire industry.

In the future, all oaac member companies will submit entries on behalf of their clients.

This means that creative work appearing on over 95% of the outdoor displays across the country will now be entered into the judging competition.

A gala evening to showcase this year’s best outdoor creative and present the 1994 awards will be held this fall in Toronto.

The Billi Awards are one of the only major advertising awards programs that does not require an entry fee: if it ran in an outdoor medium somewhere in the country, it is automatically eligible.

It should be a great show. Canadian outdoor creative is considered among the best in the world and, for the last two years, Canadian designs have won the top prize at the international Grand Prix competition in Paris. (Remember those boards for Evian showing the fish that prefers Evian to its natural water?)

Finally, a few words on the medium itself.

I believe that outdoor advertising is the condition to which all advertising aspires.

Outdoor is pure advertising.

By that I mean there are no distractions to take the focus away from the advertiser’s message.

Outdoor doesn’t have to worry about programming like tv and radio does. And, unlike magazines and newspapers, it doesn’t have to concern itself with editorial.

Its main business, its only business, is the client’s advertising message.

It’s an advertising medium only – pure and simple – not an entertainment medium, and not a news medium.

The outdoor message is quick, condensed, to the point.

If advertising itself is commercial art, then outdoor advertising is commercial poetry.