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Outdoor Advertising and Out-Of-Home Media
below is a feature article from OUTLook `07 -the Philippines 1st Trade Conference on Out-Of-Home Media
September 25, 2007 at the Makati Shangri-la

OUT OF MIND with OUT OF HOME

A glimpse into the industry of Out-Of-Home media reminds me of the days of The Wild, Wild West. I drew this assumption a few weeks ago as I prepared the publicity for OUTlook `07. As an outsider looking in, I had to do the necessary research into this interesting specimen of a micro-economy called "Outdoor Advertising".

Outdoor Advertising - there was an era in the local advertising scene when outdoor advertising was referred to by people in the ad agencies as "non-traditional". The premise was that traditional advertising had to do with the so called triumvirate of radio, television, and print (tri-media as they called it in Communications class in college). Immediately, it struck me that advertising industry itself is pumped up with irony. Imagine this : how could outdoor advertising be referred to as non-traditional when in fact, the very first form of advertising had to do with outdoor?

The very first posters ever made were actually notices for the return of runaway slaves in the days of the Pharaoh in Egypt. Obviously at that time, there was no radio or television to lord it over to say that they were THE traditional medium. And, despite its close semblance to outdoor media, print media couldn't even come into a close second since the development Guttenberg's printing machine was scheduled many centuries later. So while this writer personally feels that Print media is really king in terms of communicating lucid thoughts, I have to concede that outdoor is where all forms of advertising began.

And so if outdoor is where advertising all began, why did the advertising agencies snub this medium for a long time? Why is it that all of a sudden, this sudden interest in outdoor? After reviewing materials on outdoor advertising dating way back to martial law times, a past-president of the Outdoor Advertising Association of the Philippines had this to say, "the constant decline in the country's economy is slowly making advertisers realize the practical, low-cost outdoor or out-of-home media. Gradually, outdoor is receiving more share in the advertising pie. And with good enough reason. Outdoor reaches people in an increasingly segmented media market with unequaled frequency and at a low cost per thousand impressions".

Ahhh, now I get it, it all boils down to economics. Advertisers want to have more bang for their buck. Equally so, advertising agencies have taken a keen interest in this medium because as one media planner put it, "Outdoor is one of the last, if not THE last available medium wherein the agency can charge a full 15% commission". She continues to say, "For all other media, commissions have already shrunk to single digit percentages".

Another reason for the focus on outdoor - creativity. How else can one get creative on radio, TV, or print? It seems like anything new which can be done in these media has already been done. If anything “new” or “original” comes up, it will most likely be a derivation of a previous execution or will surely have some distant cousin of a project in a not so distant past. Oh but outdoor is different!

Outdoor apparently improves itself over time with the aid of technology thereby allowing a large playroom for creativity. Thus, the standards are raised in the way outdoor is viewed as a medium. And speaking of standards, this writer has asked around about standards in outdoor media and has gotten a unique mix of reactions. From stern replies directing me to read the Code of Ethics of the industry organization, to ambiguous statements about a 200 meter distance between billboards, to a cynical laugh in retort stating, "What standards?!".

This brings me back to my earlier assertion about advertising as an industry being pumped up with irony. We hear of terms such as professionalism and abiding to standards when in fact, standards are too vague. The beauty of it all is that even without a stringent set of standards, the medium thrives and, grows impressively. This is cause enough to say that today's event may be the perfect venue to reveal and deal with the medium's birth pains.

All of these lead to one conclusion. Outdoor may be the oldest medium, but it is surely the late bloomer who comes out with the biggest bang. Are we to say then that OUTLook `07 is the medium's debut party? This writer wouldn't go to the extent of asserting that. Although one thing is for sure, in a way, OUTLook `07 may be likened to the manner that Pinoys stage a child's seventh birthday. It's not the main debut party, but it surely is a big celebration.

Mary M. Ebdane

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