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Interview: Andrew Atherton, Consultant, OAP

"Quality can sometimes be a very subjective factor, and what makes a great location for one client may be less so for another."

Interview: Andrew Atherton, Consultant, OAP

"Quality can sometimes be a very subjective factor, and what makes a great location for one client may be less so for another."

Andrew Atherton, currently working as a consultant at Outdoor Advertising Professionals, OAP has a 20 years of experience in the area of outdoor advertising with specialization in the field of research, training and alternate outdoor. Best known for his assignment for Titan Outdoor advertising agency, wherein he introduced a new analytical and mapping technique for inventory, Andrew paid a recent three day visit to India.

In conversation with Neha Saraiya of, Andrew Atherton voices out the changing face of outdoor and points the action happening on the outdoor front.

What are various forms of alternate advertising that have come rapidly in the recent times?

The two that come most to mind has been the explosion of ‘ambient’ opportunities and digital opportunities. Ambient can really target & interact with the audience at very specific times & locations, and then technological advances now associated with the digital formats mean engagement with the consumer is much more measurable & accountable.

How do you reach out to target groups that have low exposure in OOH?

Every media has their own strengths & weaknesses when it comes to targeting specific audiences. Different Outdoor formats can also reach different audiences in different ways, it is about understanding what the target audience is and how best to use the different media formats accordingly – and then having the strength to say that for some target groups certain formats just do not work well.

What are the new Mapping and Analysis tool floating in the market to optimise inventory?

Mapping techniques are now no longer ‘new’. They have been around for a while, but ultimately it is about proximity & audience targeting – both ensuring ‘wastage’ is kept to a minimum. Panels in direct proximity to certain types of retail outlet are going to be more valuable in targeting people who are more likely to be visiting that particular retail outlet; and by using consumer profiling databases, it means panels can be selected in areas where there is a much higher prevalence to certain audience types.

How does the trading of Media currencies help to the outdoor market place?

It would help put Outdoor at par with the other media. If plans put together for other media use one currency and then plans for Outdoor use a totally different mechanism, it would be impossible to show how Outdoor performs against other. By adopting similar currencies will show how Outdoor performs, both in competition to other media, but in conjunction with other media.

Today, with the use of technology of digicams and mobile phones, a fool proof monitoring of the outdoor is possible... But what about the authenticity factor?

I’m not really in a position to comment on the monitoring of Outdoor campaigns in India, but can say that technological developments have helped improve accountability in this area in other countries, and that authenticity has not been too much of an issue.

Traditionally, few sectors like Real estate, Telecom and FMCG have been the biggest advertisers for the Outdoor advertising. Which are the new sectors that are fast banking on this medium?

The categories that have seen the most significant rises in recent years, include Financial & Entertainment/Media. The financial clients are realizing the profile of the Outdoor audience more closely matches their own target market, and it is a testament to the Outdoor medium that other big media owners like television companies & newspaper owners, are also realizing the value of Outdoor.

Globally, the spends on outdoor advertising is up to 6.5 per cent of the total pie. Which are the countries that have a number less than this and why?

In terms of countries where Outdoor has a lower share of advertising spend, then I think this comes down to investment by the media owners & agencies, to not only provide better Outdoor advertising opportunities, but also investment in better understanding of how Outdoor works & what it provides. Investment in accountability is equally as important, and it is those countries that are still to invest in both these areas where the share has remained low.

Do you believe that quality of outdoor advertising is a well-established indicator of the economic progress or well-being of a city or town?

There’s no doubt that investment in Outdoor has shown a vast improvement in the quality of Outdoor advertising, and investment will only really be done in markets or cities where the media owner believes the conditions are right for him to get a good return, but equally there are buoyant areas where Outdoor has not been invested in. So it is too simple to say that the two factors are totally inter-related.

Who wins the race between 'most visible' hoarding and’good quality’ hoardings among the clients?

This will come down to the individual client. ‘Quality’ can sometimes be a very subjective factor, and what makes a great location for one client may be less so for another. In general most audience measurement systems will calculate the better ‘quality’ panels in terms of pure audience, but it will be down to the individual brief and the individual planner as to what would be best for the client.

How should the issue of “removing hoardings” and “visual pollution” should be dealt by an agency and a company?

What constitutes “visual pollution” does vary greatly from one market to the next. In terms of removing hoardings, then if a panel has been erected illegally then it is down to the individual company to ensure that these hoardings are not part of a clients’ display. But also what we have seen in a number of the markets like the UK is that many panels have been removed, but based on their quality & yields that they achieve. The net effect has been that whilst total numbers have reduced, the overall quality has improved.

Do you feel that there is a big need to regulate and introduce uniform sizes, clean lighting, safety standards, etc in outdoor advertising to ensure better advertising practices?

I wouldn’t say that there is a need to formalize size & formats to ensure better practices, it is more a case that standardized formats & maintenance has led to a greater uptake & use of the medium. Printing costs alone would greatly reduce if, for example, an Outdoor campaign was planned across many environments, but the size of panel bought was consistent. Also better maintenance has improved the overall quality perception of Outdoor, and brands are much more ready to spend their advertising budgets that show their brand in the best light.

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