Editor's Note: Go Where the People Are

We probably see them every day. Billboards. Building wraps. Transit signs. Wrapped vehicles of all sorts. Sometimes they just melt into the background, merging into the scenery that encompasses our daily commute. Some days we might take the time to look a little closer—looking at the seams, the print quality—judging what we see on other projects we might have produced ourselves or seen in other places.

Outdoor advertising is nothing new, really. You can probably trace it back into Ancient times when the Egyptians carved hieroglyphics into large stone obelisks or walls, publicizing various laws and treaties. While we no longer use chisels and hammers, out-of-home advertising is still alive and kicking.

But where did it begin in more modern times? According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), the first large American outdoor poster—more than 50 square feet—originated in New York in Jared Bell's office where he printed posters for the circus in 1835. In the very beginning of outdoor—or out-of-home—advertising, American roadside advertising was usually local. Merchants would paint signs or glue posters on walls and fences advertising their latest wares—anything from household goods to some more unique health remedies.

Nowadays, we see some a lot of the same things advertised—but in very different formats. We can find anything from Broadway shows to cars and computers advertised in billboards high above our heads as we drive along the highways and byways. Moving billboards—a.k.a. wrapped vehicles—are becoming more commonplace in many of our larger cities, many of which represent local merchants. Posters in bus shelters keep us up to date with the latest movies to hit the theaters or with the newest cell phone promotion.

It might seem like out-of-home advertising is everywhere, but how is it doing, really? According to the OAAA, out-of-home advertising industry revenue was flat during the first nine months of 2008, accounting for $5.45 billion in advertising revenue. But out of all of the media segments, it performed better. However, in the third quarter of 2008, out-of-home fell six percent, accounting for $1.62 billion in total advertising expenditures.

Stephen Freitas, chief marketing officer for the OAAA, reported at the beginning of December that the out-of-home industry "rests on a fundamentally sound foundation. During a recession, advertisers are looking for value and out-of-home advertising provides outstanding 'bang for the buck' in the media industry."

But why? The OAAA points to the changing habits of American consumers. We're becoming much more mobile and traditional media—such as television, radio—isn't providing that "bang for the buck" it once used to. So, companies have been forced, in a way, to bring their advertising messages where the people are.

For PSPs providing out-of-home advertising services, this could bring them some much-needed optimism and opportunities as corporate America makes that shift to out-of-home advertising, bringing its message to the people.

Are you listening?