Out of Home Media

These days, more and more people are spending time away from home. Out of home media has been an effective way to reach commuters and travelers: According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), out of home advertising grew 1.7 percent in the second quarter of 2008, accounting for $2.2 billion in advertising expenditures.

What’s in it for printers, and how might they take advantage of out of home media? I caught up with Al Raimondi, administrative plant manager of Signmasters Inc., Passaic Park, N.J., to find out. He is an expert in the industry who, for 28 years, was an owner of a computer graphics prepress provider.

Printing News: How do you think out of home media presents a good opportunity for advertising in general?

Al Raimondi: Out of home media is quickly becoming the media of choice for high-traffic public venues, i.e. malls, kiosks, sports arenas, etc.

Out of home media is the use of innovative technology and concepts, such as video advertising networks and digital billboards, to connect to perspective consumers. It can be pricey putting it out of reach of a firm with a modest advertising budget, but the upside is that it’s high tech and flashy.

PN: What are some factors advertisers should consider when making out of home media decisions?

AR: Will the target market be reached? Does the advertising information need to updated and kept current? Does the ROI make sense?

PN: How are printed billboards, POP displays, and signs more or less effective than digital out of home media? Even as digital media is taking over, why are people still going to turn to the printed media?

AR: Printed media is cheaper, it is disposable, and it is changeable/ interchangeable. How one gauges the success or effectiveness of an advertising campaign is dependent upon factors such as, repetition, attractiveness, interest, and consumer impulse. So to say which media is more or less effective depends on these factors among others.

PN: Why or why not is there a growing demand in the wide-format market?

AR: The market for this product is here because this technology is readily available and relatively inexpensive. The cost for producing a banner or poster has diminished by 50 percent from a few years ago, for example a 24x48 poster used to cost $90. Now you can buy the same graphic for less than half that cost, not to mention twice the quality. Wide-format and grand-format printing is going to pale offset printing in certain applications going forward (such as short-run large format).

PN: I’ve been told that vehicle wraps are effective means of out of home media, but they are a difficult sell. Why or why not is that true and if so, how can this area be improved?

AR: I was just talking about the under use of this product (vehicle wraps), and I have my own opinion about why this is so.

I believe there are not many advertising specialists in the field that know about this product, nor do I know of anyone who sells or applies the graphics not to mention it takes an educated designer to design the unique dimensions necessary to properly fit a custom vehicle. I also believe that consumers don’t like the idea that this technique is semi permanent. I may be mistaken but I assume they are correct in their assumption that the graphics are pretty difficult to remove once they are applied to a vehicle. I believe an automated design tool is necessary to facilitate the design and fit, which in turn will open the market for the use of vehicle warps for many different sizes and shape vehicles.

PN: What kind of changes has the wide-format market seen during your 30 years in the industry? Is out of home media going to be bigger in 2009-2010?

AR: In the last 10 years I’ve seen the digital prepress (service bureau) industry evolve into the digital printing service bureau industry. Meaning, if a shop had the technical ability to operate a prepress department full of digital output devices such as computer to plate, image setters, proofers, plotters with RIPS and other such high-tech equipment. Most likely that shop would be a great candidate to install a digital printing device, or DI (direct image) press.

With all respect to commercial printers, most do not have the technical ability to run a quality digital printing department without an infusion of technical training. I am still surprised to see that many large commercial printers still do not have digital divisions. To answer the second part of your question, out of home media is growing. I remember seeing one statistic showing that market going up more than 20 percent.

PN: How are things like cell phone marketing going to impact print advertisements?

AR: (It will) never happen. Cell phone advertisements are annoying. Most of us feel the same way. Direct mail, brochures, and PO are still far more fruitful in attracting sales for retail and service venues.

PN: What does the actual process of designing and printing a billboard involve?

AR: As I mentioned, design for vehicle wraps are difficult, propriety to the type of vehicle or shape requested. Billboard design is relatively simple. There are many template design formats programs available. Years ago, we scaled everything down into inches to fool or trick the design programs which only allowed limited sizes to be designed, and then we would output the job as double or quadruple the size as necessary to fit the application and tile the art manually.

PN: How would you decide where out of home media is placed (demographics, target audience, etc.) and what steps do you take to ensure it is going to be effective?

AR: As any well thought out plan, a lot of research is necessary; you don’t market surf boards in Alaska, nor do you sell snowshoes in Florida. There are many research firms that specialize in demographics and market analysis.

PN: Describe the overall quality standards of wide-format media versus regular print runs for brochures. What are the differences?

AR: Digital printing is a different animal than offset. The theory is similar but the process is vastly different. Many output devices don’t generate dot patterns like offset does, so color balance and color profiling is very important to achieve proper saturation and hue. Salespeople need to be educated so they can educate their clients as to the limitations of digital printing, for example digital cannot exactly match a PMS (Pantone) color as an offset press can do by printing a fifth color in the ink fountain. Many sales people don’t take the time to inform their clients of the differences, which usually comes as a surprise once an offset job is placed next to a digital job.

My suggestions:

  • Calibrate your digital devices,
  • G7 is the way to go if you wonder where to start,
  • Generate color patches
  • Employ an expert to correct the grey balance and gamut,
  • Educate your sales force.

PQ Media’s U.S. Digital Out-of-Home Media Forecast, 2008-2012

The Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) industry is facing its first economic slowdown, and the overall ad environment is expected to remain weak in 2009, particularly in the absence of Olympics and political advertising, which softened the blow in 2008.

However, while the economy struggles in 2008 and 2009 and traditional ad media post declines, DOOH is expected to continue to produce gains, although at a slower pace. Advertisers will continue to boost spending in DOOH as consumers spend more time outside the home and reduce traditional media usage.

Audience fragmentation has made it more difficult for advertisers to reach consumers through traditional media, so they will take advantage of DOOH’s ability to engage consumers in captive locations. Improvements in audience measurement systems and technological advances will also drive growth. DOOH vendors that provide advertisers with critical mass, as well as engagement and ROI metrics, will survive the industry shakeout and position themselves for growth.

The impact of the oil and credit crisis on consumer behavior has presented opportunities and challenges for the DOOH industry.

Consumers are driving and flying less, leading to fewer at-road and airport display impressions. But the rise in mass transit usage has increased the audience for displays in bus, train, and subway terminal stations. For example, Amtrak reported a double-digit increase in ridership in 2008, and many cities and states are reporting the onslaught of users has strained their mass transit systems.

Meanwhile, the consolidation that began in 2007 continued in 2008 as the industry moved into a shakeout phase. A number of deals went down in the second half of 2008 alone, including Zoom Media’s acquisition of ClubCom, TouchTunes’ purchase of Barfly and Fuelcast’s merger with Bhootan. Weak economic conditions and the advertising slump also caused financial turmoil at a number of DOOH vendors, prompting them to go on the block or shut down completely.

Interactive retail display system Reactrix went into receivership in late 2008, seeking buyers due to a lack of funds—a casualty of the credit crunch. In addition, major media companies are driving the mergers and acquisitions market as they seek entry into DOOH by purchasing existing vendors. These media conglomerates are looking to leverage their content across multiple platforms. Smaller DOOH companies, meanwhile, are aligning with DOOH ad networks to gain access to brand managers and ad agencies.

Consolidation, alliances, and ad networks have allowed DOOH vendors to offer advertisers a national reach through multiple venues. These strategies are likely to strengthen DOOH media when the overall advertising industry rebounds and elevate its position in the media mix.

Source: PQ Media, Global Digital Out-of-Home Forecast, 2008-2012: Advertising Spending, Trends & Analysis