Outspoken on Out-of-Home Advertising

According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), revenues in the out-of-home advertising industry continue to grow, quarter after quarter. Suddenly, out-of-home advertising is sprouting everywhere, from the doctor’s office and the supermarket to public transit system trains and buses.

Clearly, this booming marketplace offers tempting possibilities for print service providers producing wide-format output. But as one expert says, reaping riches in out-of-home advertising isn’t as simple as it looks. Success in this segment calls for providers to attend to detail, keep abreast of developments in wrap manufacturing and warrantees, partner with digital sign manufacturers and take advantage of every possible opportunity for education and training.

Biggest growth markets

According to Glenn Feder, business development director for the Alexandria, Va.-based International Sign Association, citing figures from the Digital Place-Based Advertising Association, digital place-based advertising grew at an almost 15 percent rate in the first half of 2013. That’s more than cable television (10 percent), outdoor advertising (6 percent) and other forms of media.

“An example of digital place-based advertising are screens you might see in a doctor’s office, perhaps touting the doctor’s services along with information about a nearby pharmacy,” Feder reports. “You might also see these in restaurants, parking garages, nightclubs [and other settings].”

The same component setups, featuring a screen, player and perhaps a software system, are included in the overall dynamic signage market, he adds.

Broadly, these components can be used to advertise the products and services of any enterprise that incorporates them. Think, for instance, of the product demonstration area of a supermarket or gourmet shop.

Growth factors are linked with the greater connectedness of the general population, and the effect that has had on traditional means of reaching advertising targets. With the advent of smart phones and tablets, consumers have come to expect relevant, interactive product and service information when and where they want it. For this reason and others, it is becoming increasingly difficult for advertisers to reach consumers via television, and readership of traditional print channels like newspapers and magazines has declined.

Thus, advertisers are taking their messages to places where consumers are captive audiences, whether those consumers are in the auto repair shop waiting area, or standing in line at a quick-serve restaurant to place their order.

As well, businesses have seen measurable outcomes related to deploying dynamic digital signage. For instance, restaurants see an increase in sales, and supermarkets and upscale stores move more of advertised items, Feder notes.

Also driving this trend is that component costs are declining dramatically and the supporting technology is becoming more user friendly. As a result, dynamic digital signage is a far more affordable option for companies than it was even one or two years ago. Signage end users and specifiers are asking about dynamic digital signage, often directing questions to their local sign company. “The savvy sign company will be wise to learn more about it,” Feder asserts.    

Another growth area is transit advertising, says David Allman, president and CEO of iMagic in Burbank, Calif. The company has long provided outdoor and transit advertising, producing billboards, wall graphics, building graphics, transit advertising, buses, trains, train interiors and bus shelter ads.

“Ultimately, a lot is dictated by the economic climate,” Allman says. “The transit authorities have struggled over the past few years due to the economic downturn, and like everyone else, they’re looking for revenue.

“Advertising provides that revenue. We’ve done more train interior wraps this year than ever. Chicago [Transit Authority] was one of the first to accept interior train wraps, but Philadelphia, Boston and the Port Authority of New York are now accepting them. We just did interior wraps for Iceland Air in New York.”

How PSPs can profit

Let’s face it, Feder says. Dynamic digital signage comes with a language all its own and will continue to represent a significant revenue opportunity for anyone willing to embrace it as part of their product or service offering.

“So companies can approach this in ways that best suit their core competencies, customer mix and investment capabilities,” he explains.

“They can opt to expand or train existing staff on dynamic digital signage solutions or they can find partners with capabilities to handle any combination of the components necessary for a project.”

It’s important to recognize that most sign companies understand the skills needed for dynamic digital signage and employ them successfully every day for some of the biggest brands and facilities in the entire U.S., he adds.

“They know visual imaging, branding and messaging. Many sign companies know permitting, installation and maintenance. The sign companies are ideally positioned, with some effort and investment, to be a key solution provider to nationwide, regional and local businesses that want to benefit from the tremendous advantages that dynamic digital signage offers.”

During the 2013 ISA International Sign Expo, he relates, the ISA offered an entire day of programming devoted to helping sign companies comprehend the role they can play in the emerging sphere of dynamic digital signage.

Most of the sessions at the event were presented to standing-room-only audiences, which responded with exceptional feedback.

Some 80 percent of 2013 attendees expect to attend next year, and 90 percent would recommend the programming to a colleague, Feder notes.

As a result, the ISA expects Dynamic Digital Day at the 2014 International Sign Expo to be even more popular with attendees. In addition, the ISA is partnering with Almo for a day-long EV A-V Tour. “The Almo Tour provides networking and education in the audio-visual world,” he reports. “And we’ll again have the Dynamic Digital Signage Park on the Expo floor. There’s no better way to learn more about dynamic digital signage solutions, and potentially find partner suppliers and A-V companies, than at ISA International Sign Expo.”

For his part, Allman believes print service providers’ opportunities to serve the out-of-home advertising market will be largely based on their ability to deliver quality products. Most cutting-edge equipment sold these days offers the ability to be creative, but doing so is not as easy as it looks, he says.

“A lot of people have tried, some successfully and some not as successfully,” he reports. “The templates have to be accurate, and you must have the basic knowledge of the vehicles you’re wrapping. It’s not cookie cutter. Some publications make it appear to be cookie cutter, but it’s not.

“Paying attention to detail is really how you do it successfully. In any vehicle there are obstacles in the way -- a gas cap, a door handle -- and if you don’t pay attention to detail, guess whose logo is going to be going over that gas cap? And then you have a really unhappy customer”

Noting he’s been serving the out-of-home advertising market “for many, many years,” Allman says he works closely with the vinyl providers, staying ahead of the technology by paying close attention to the warrantee information.

PSPs must work with the manufacturers to understand the materials they provide, and how they perform differently under different circumstances, he says.

What PSPs should know

What do print providers not know about serving the out-of-home market that they should understand? According to Feder, it’s that companies enjoying growth have attained that growth by expanding the services they offer, either directly or by partnering with others. “I’d suggest that print service providers think broadly about ways that they can keep the printers running,” he urges.

“Are there commercial print projects or partnerships that make sense? ISA recently sponsored a pavilion at PRINT 13, designed to help commercial printers understand more about the sign industry. The reverse is equally applicable, and experts from PRINT 13 will be at the 2014 ISA International Sign Expo to help the sign industry know more about commercial print.”

Building relationships is also the key to marketing successfully to out-of-home advertising providers. “Continue networking with businesses in your communities,” Feder suggests. “Get involved in the local chamber of commerce and your ISA affiliated association. This enables PSPs to know about upcoming projects and to be top-of-mind when they have skills and services that align.”

What the future holds

A number of emerging trends impacting out-of-home advertising hold potential for print providers, and one in particular stands out. ISA is seeing tremendous growth in the utilization of wayfinding systems, which help tourists and locals alike navigate from a car or on foot, Feder reports. “Many communities have added wayfinding in recent years,” he points out.

“Print has a role to play in this area too, as many wayfinding systems include banners and other printed material promoting seasonal events. ISA and the Signage Foundation, Inc., have developed a resource guide to help sign companies understand more about this.”

The guide is available by visiting www.signagefoundation.org.

Ultimately, quality and consistency are the two secrets to success in this field. “If you do it right on a consistent basis, people will recognize who you are,” Allman says. “If you do it right the first time, they will call you back.”