Collaboration is the key to the future of European OOH

out of home 1The Out of Home (OOH) sector currently sits on a launchpad. After one of the worst recessions in living memory, the advent of digital, social and mobile marketing, and the resilience of TV and print advertising, many doomsayers predicted the demise of OOH. Yet, latest figures from the Outdoor Media Centre have revealed that UK OOH advertising saw a 6.4% rise in Q2 2014, equating to over a quarter of a billion pounds, compared with the same quarter in the previous year. This represents the fourth biggest quarter of spend in the medium’s history.

This naturally makes for very encouraging reading for me and, I would imagine, the likes of JCDecaux, Clear Channel, Ocean and Primesight. Despite OOH showing bullishness however, the question that really strikes me is, how do we as an industry maintain the growth and achieve a bigger slice of the advertising pie? The answer lies in collaboration.

In other words, we have to make it easier for advertisers to buy from us, to see what they are getting and to understand how that fits with the rest of their plans.

For years, individual players have scrapped, innovated internally and embraced aspects, such as digital and interactive OOH at different rates and in different ways. Overall, it’s been a highly fragmented approach. The major players in the industry need to come together, pool their collective resources and offer both advertisers and consumers a more intelligent form of advertising. This wouldn’t be the first industry where collaboration has been the key to ensuring its evolution. Look at the success of Thinkbox in the UK, which has established itself as the marketing body for all commercial television and exists solely to help advertisers get the most out of television. There is no reason why we can’t instil a similar dynamic in the OOH sector.

We can do this easily through a number of ways. Firstly, if all the players were to group their databases of insights on consumers, OOH’s proposition would be even more powerful. Take Route as an example. Route is the audience research body for UK OOH media, with behavioural insights on 34,000 consumers. This is a good start and has laid solid foundations. However, if all the players in the industry were to collaborate, there would be a base of millions to analyse. This is a hugely powerful differentiator when looking to attract new brands and campaigns.

Collaboration around digital is another area that needs a serious boost. The same figures from the OMC show that digital OOH had its strongest quarter ever, with 30 percent year-on year growth. Take mobile for example. I came to this role from Telefonica where I had the opportunity to see, first hand, the potential of mobile within advertising. A variety of mobile and digital technologies are currently being integrated in to OOH during trial phase or as a bolt-on, which represents a huge opportunity to build upon. The industry needs to come together and commit to integrating digital technology, based on both consumer and advertiser research (ie what works, what doesn’t) into its proposition, so it can offer a consolidated format that actually resonates with both audiences.

We are at a tipping point for the industry. We have a great opportunity to come together and accelerate the growth of OOH’s share of the marketing budget. Look at what happened with mobile ad spending in the UK. I started at Telefonica when it was a sub £10 million industry. eMarketer now predicts it will crash through the £2 billion barrier this year. I’m determined to instil this level of collaboration, starting in the UK and then branching across Europe.

Shaun Gregory is chief executive of Exterion Media.