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May 14, 2008
What Do You Know About the Second Fastest Growing Medium?

Quick – what’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear outdoor advertising? Billboards, isn’t it? Well… while there’s no correct answer, if the “B-word” is your go-to comeback when asked about outdoor advertising, you may be a bit behind the times.

So much more than billboards

Don’t get me wrong. Billboards are fabulous – their mere size commands attention and they were outdoor’s star for well over 100 years. But today that star must share advertising’s stage… and billboards are just part of the out-of-home cast. In 2008, outdoor advertising is so much more than billboards. The industry has grown in size, scope and uniqueness, captivating new users with an endless variety of ways to grab attention and make a statement.

The landscape is thick with trends and ripe with new ideas, and it’s no easy feat staying on top of the latest and greatest opportunities. In fact, you just might need a tour guide.

So little time, so many choices

What are they? Well, how much time do you have? Let’s see – there are banners & wallscapes, building illumination, cinema ads, gas station displays, interactive window displays, mobile projection, scooter caravans, branded segway teams, shuttle bus programs, text messaging and Bluetooth programs, video display vehicles, walking billboards and wrapped smart cars. And that’s just for starters… it’s a veritable smorgasbord out there but that’s both the opportunity and the problem.

Having choices is great but the key is how to blend them together to yield the perfect recipe for brand success. As any great chef knows, it takes discernment and just the right spices to turn a dish from good to great. This is no exception in the outdoor advertising world.

Let me give you some examples.

Newfangled one on one marketing

A recent program we constructed for American Airlines provides a clear illustration. AA was looking to get the word out about its new direct route between Chicago & Shanghai and it wanted to make a strong impression. So impress we did! Brand ambassadors dressed in AA sweatshirts & toting AA carry on luggage took to the streets to personally distribute 100,000 fortune cookies to business professionals with custom messages such as “Non-Stop to Shanghai on American Airlines, your perfect match”. In addition, a caravan of scooters replete with backlit panels toured the city to perk interest and raise awareness. One-on-one marketing on a grand scale: engaging, informative and certainly memorable.

In another example, Nationwide Insurance wanted something truly unique to launch its "life comes at you fast" campaign and so in addition to the traditional fare, we offered up wrapped buses in 14 markets, eye-popping lenticular airport dioramas and a 30-story building illumination at Nationwide’s World Headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, which lit up the skyline over 350’ tall! All in all, this award-winning outdoor campaign was a great success and the client has been back the last three years for more.

We all know who’s on first… but out-of-home is on second!

There's no doubt that the internet is the fastest growing media around, but many advertisers are looking for the personal touch and more ‘wow’ factor than the internet can deliver. And if the customer is always right, they are telling us something through the rapid growth outdoor advertising has enjoyed, even through economically trying times. It is, after all, the 2nd fastest growing medium. From street teams interacting with consumers to 350 foot tall spectacular projections – it’s all out there.

So how do I get started you ask?

Experts Matter

It’s rather funny that we don’t think twice about hiring a personal trainer, a financial advisor or a wedding planner, but when it comes to how our ad budgets are spent, we foolishly think an expert isn’t necessary. With hundreds of options to choose from and shrinking budgets, how you spend it matters and you’d be well served to find a partner with expertise in identifying and executing the best solutions for you. Not only will you save time and money but your ROI will soar as well.

One size does not fit all, nor should it – not when there are as many colors & flavors out there to choose from!

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Betsy McLarney is CEO of EMC Outdoor, expert collaborators in designing and executing outdoor media programs that deliver results. She brings the same interest in customer ROI to her advertising partnerships as she did to her investor clients when she served, in a former life, as portfolio manager for Mellon Bank and Wilmington Trust.
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