The nature of today’s out-of-home advertising (OOH) is truly unique and dialectical. The oldest advertising medium has now become a most innovative, tech-heavy method of advertising that keeps growing even when other media shrink.
The Last Mass Medium.
While other traditional media (print, radio, on-air TV) suffer from the expansion of the online news and entertainment channels, the past few years have seen OOH getting stronger by absorbing the latest developments in mobile marketing, consumer targeting, audience and ad effectiveness measurement, and programmatic media buying.
That explains why OOH is the only true mass medium left standing.
By contrast, despite the attempts to adapt, newspapers are being slowly killed by the Internet. A life-long believer in newspapers, Warren Buffett recently admitted he did not think the newspaper business had good prospects for survival any more.
Traditional radio is also being eroded by the Internet and smart phone capabilities.
Even the growth of online advertising and its offspring – mobile marketing — have been affected lately by the revolt against intrusive advertising and ad fraud.
New media technologies are relentlessly proliferating, causing consumers to change their behavior in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. With all these changes coming simultaneously from many directions, there is no wonder why many media companies, advertisers and their agencies can feel overwhelmed and disoriented.
The hunger for guidance, insights and trustworthy information amid the chaos in the disrupted media ecosystem has drawn businesses closer to trade bodies, whose role now appears more vital than ever.
As I look at the big picture, it is clear that trade associations have been steering the OOH industry in these turbulent times. Here is a glimpse at how they do that.
USA: OAAA, DSF, DPAA.
The Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA).
OAAA is the second oldest media trade body in the United States (est. 1891), after the National Newspaper Association (est. 1885). It is the largest national association representing OOH advertising business in the world. OAAA is widely viewed as a trailblazer in advancing the cause of OOH.
Historically, the organization has led the efforts to defeat draconian legislation and helped the industry out of slumps, most recently those caused by the loss of tobacco advertising (1999) and the recession (2008).
A decade ago, OAAA recognized the potential of digitising static billboards and never looked back.
Since then, the trade body has successfully opposed the outdated legislation restricting digital billboards, developed best practices and standards for digital out of home (DOOH) advertising, and positioned and promoted the medium to the advertising community.
OAAA has funded independent marketing studies and effectiveness research; it has the most comprehensive compilation of industry information, market analysis, and case studies.
OAAA’s annual national convention is a must-attend event today for anyone who is anyone in OOH advertising. OAAA holds it together with the OOH measurement body Geopath (formerly TAB). One of the highlights of the event is the OBIE Awards, the US ad industry’s oldest creative excellence program.
In August 2016, an OAAA report marked a phenomenal 25 consecutive quarters of OOH ad revenue growth in the US.
OAAA has 795 members, including: 492 media companies (billboards, street furniture, transit, and place-based OOH); 126 suppliers (manufacturers, ad tech suppliers, attorneys, and financial institutions); 106 advertisers, agencies and affiliates; and 71 international companies.
The world’s largest OOH media owners such as JCDecaux, OUTFRONT Media, Clear Channel Outdoor and Lamar Advertising Company are OAAA members.
For the past 25 years the organization has been headed by its President and CEO Nancy Fletcher, who is one of the most influential leaders of the advertising industry.
A more detailed list of the OAAA’s achievements can be found here.
Digital Signage Federation.
The Digital Signage Federation (DSF) is focused more on the tech side of the digital out of home market, also referred to as “digital signage.” Unlike OAAA, DSF covers not only the ad-based networks but also corporate communications, retail, hospitality, and other applications of networked digital screens.
According to DSF Chairman Randy Dearborn, the mission of DSF is to “support and promote the common business interests of the worldwide digital signage, the interactive technologies, and the digital out-of-home network industries.” The DSF serves end users, advertising agencies, media, network operators, vendors, system integrators, consultants, and distributors of digital signage products and services.
Since its inception in 2010, DSF has developed several standards for the emerging industry, a glossary of terms, guides and numerous case studies. The association holds regular educational webinars and professional events both for its members and non-members.
DSF members enjoy access to a vast collection of resources and recorded presentations.
DSF has been funding research and working to improve legislation, regulations, codes and standards pertaining to the sale and use of digital signage products and services.
DSF is fighting patent trolling, a malpractice that plagues the digital signage software market.
In 2016, the trade organization has expanded into Europe, forming affiliate relations with DSF Europe (formerly OVAB Europe).
The association has 693 individual members representing 304 corporate members. The corporate membership includes: 101 end users/network operators, 25 consultants, and 178 vendors.
The Digital Place-Based Advertising Association (DPAA) stands apart from the OAAA and the DSF. It focuses on video advertising as it follows the consumers who switch from one media device to another, with the emphasis on “digital place-based” and DOOH networks.
According to DPAA President and CEO Barry Frey, its members include “digital place-based and DOOH media owners, plus all the companies that work with them. Software and hardware companies, those who provide mobile data, mobile targeting and re-targeting, programmatic media buying, research, as well as venues and content companies.”
Frey says the goal of the organization is to promote the irrefutable benefits of digital place-based/DOOH advertising and persuade the ad world to allocate larger media budgets towards these new formats.
In the past few years, the trade body has been credited with raising the profile of the DPB/DOOH medium as a whole and of its members in particular.
The association’s member base has doubled in size in the past three years (no numbers were revealed to me.)
The DPAA’s annual event “Video Everywhere Summit” has grown from 200 attendees in 2008 to 800 in 2016 and is now a major part of the New York Digital Signage Week.
The Out-of-Home Marketing Association of Canada (OMAC) is the only trade association in the country representing the OOH industry.
Its members include some of the largest international OOH ad operators such as Clear Channel Outdoor, OUTFRONT Media, Lamar Advertising Company, as well as Canadian companies Pattison Outdoor, Astral Out-of-Home, and Quebecor Media OOH.
OOH associations usually work closely with measurement trade bodies, and in Canada this relationship is probably more symbiotic than anywhere else.
In fact, OMAC’s President Rosanne Caron is also President of the Canadian Out-of-Home Measurement Bureau (COMB), a not-for-profit organization that “sets the industry standard for measurement of OOH advertising audiences across Canada.” COMB publishes circulation and market data for over 61,000 OOH advertising faces in more than 270 markets.
According to Rosanne Caron, OMAC’s goal is to “increase acceptance of the OOH medium and to educate media planners and marketers on the relevance and value of our medium.”
While COMB has developed new measurement methodologies for different types of OOH venues, OMAC has been funding research to demonstrate the effectiveness of OOH advertising.
OMAC serves as the industry spokesperson when it comes to regulatory issues.
Caron says OMAC acts as a central resource for research and other information that facilitates planning and buying OOH campaigns. “Without OMAC, it would be a challenge for agencies who are interested in including OOH in their clients’ media plans but are taxed for time,” she added.
Europe: DSF Europe (formerly OVAB Europe).
The Out of Home Video Advertising Bureau, Europe (OVAB Europe) was founded on November 13, 2008. This was originally an offshoot of the US-based Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau, a trade association, which has since changed its name to the Digital Place-based Advertising Association (DPAA). OVAB Europe was managed separately from the DPAA. (Source: Wikipedia)
In February 2016, the Digital Signage Federation (DSF) announced that the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau of Europe (OVAB Europe) became an independent affiliate of DSF and changed its name to DSF Europe.
DSF Europe is led by venture capitalist and DOOH expert Dirk Huelsermann.
According to its CEO Charmaine Moldrich, “The Outdoor Media Association (OMA) is the only national industry body speaking for Australia’s OOH media display companies and production facilities, as well as some media display asset owners.”
Since Charmaine took the reins at OMA almost seven years ago, I noticed a surge in the news covering the Australian OOH advertising and OMA’s initiatives. Today, Australia stands out as a vibrant and fast-growing OOH market.
OMA has built its own OOH audience measurement system, MOVE. The association vigorously promotes the benefits of OOH advertising. It is the face of the industry when it comes to developing and improving the government regulation, as well as self-regulatory policies, guidelines, and standards.
Moldrich says OMA makes sure that the industry is “not being disrupted by technology and in fact is adding high-tech capabilities to its suite of values.”
The Australian OOH media “finished 2015 with a 17% overall increase on net revenue year-on-year and our audiences have grown 2.8% – over indexing population growth at 2%; and we’ve had a six-year cumulative growth of 20.3%,” Moldrich told me.
The United Kingdom historically has had one national trade association serving outdoor/OOH advertising companies. The trade body, known today as Outsmart, has undergone several reincarnations and appears to be in a state of transition again.
The original Outdoor Advertising Association was superseded by the Outdoor Media Centre (OMC) in January 2011.
Then, as Campaign Live reported, “In January 2015, JCDecaux, the UK’s biggest outdoor media owner, withdrew its membership. The OMC had split with its chief executive, Mike Baker, and hired Mark Craze to review its remit just three months previously.” As a result, the OMC was rebranded as Outsmart and “radically shifted its focus from holding events to hiring more full-time staff” (Source: Campaign Live). The new organization was led by Baker’s replacement, Alan Brydon.
Less than one year later, in August 2016, Outsmart was downsized, and both Alan Brydon, the chief executive, and Mark Craze, the chairman, left the organization.
The new chairman of Outsmart, Justin Cochrane, who is also the chief executive of Clear Channel UK, declined my request for comments.
Ocean Outdoor’s CEO Tim Bleakley told me:
“Outsmart (post the re-brand from the OMC) had a clear remit to shift its balance away from the functional and towards marketing.
That was the brief. Immediately, this was a shift in emphasis that one large player disagreed with, and resigned.
Outsmart ploughed on and, with one arm tied behind its back, were starting to make really good progress. In fact, in the last quarter the whole sector was up in excess of 7%. Nevertheless, as I mentioned earlier, there is always strong debate around emphasis of these bodies. Not everybody agreed on the future role and focus of Outsmart, so I suppose we are all pausing for breath.
It’s disappointing, but at the same time each company has to run its own business and make its own choices, and sometimes this can clash with the requirements of a collective.”
Finally, the World: FEPE International.
FEPE International (est. 1959) is the only global OOH association working to promote and improve the OOH industry. Board members include JCDecaux, Clear Channel Outdoor, Exterion, Ströer (Germany), OUTFRONT Media (USA) and oOh!Media (Australia). (Source: FEPE PR).
Many of FEPE’s members are national OOH and DOOH trade associations.
As FEPE President Matthew Dearden explained to me: “Our goal is to support and evangelize about our medium, but not to get in the way of the good work achieved by the existing national associations.
We can do that not by duplicating the work of various companies and national bodies, but by identifying the valuable, unique roles that are not otherwise acted upon. Those include: connecting the companies leading the growth of our industry in different countries; curating and communicating the most inspiring work and ideas that address our big questions; and celebrating the very best of these through recognition and awards.”
Mark Flys, General Secretary at FEPE International says the organization has had success in helping its members with legislative issues and data support over the last few years (particularly in Eastern Europe).
FEPE’s annual convention, FEPE Congress, is a prestigious OOH forum that is hosted in different countries and is attended by the executives of OOH companies and trade associations from around the world.
What OOH companies say about their trade associations.
Clear Channel Outdoor is a global OOH advertising giant, with more than 650,000 displays in over 35 countries across five continents, including 43 of the 50 largest markets in the United States. This includes a growing digital platform that now offers over 1,050 digital billboards across 29 US markets.
CEO of Clear Channel Outdoor Americas Scott Wells told me that his company is a member of different associations and its primary trade body in the US is OAAA.
OAAA membership “helps us win in the advertising marketplace,” Wells says. “OAAA has proved a vital resource in telling our industry’s story to stakeholders and policymakers. Most recently you saw evidence of their work in a New York Times story that proclaimed, Look Up, Billboards are Not Dead. Because they keep the pulse of the industry as a whole, it helps us all to tell a greater story and illustrate our relevance,” he added.
Ocean Outdoor is a top UK ad operator that was among the pioneers of integrating DOOH campaigns with mobile and online media channels.
The company is a member of Outsmart, FEPE, and IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau).
CEO Bleakley says Ocean Outdoor maintains close ties with trade associations in the US and Australia as “we like to share and learn a lot from these interactions.”
“We joined Outsmart because we are very strong believers in collaboration and knowledge sharing and in particular trying to drive best practice and innovation and in so doing, educate. There is more media of all sorts of forms available to clients now than ever before. It is an almost impossible task for agency planners to cope with and then for buyers to procure solely within the best interests of their clients – there is simply too much ‘stuff.’
A good association can make sense of all this and help their sectors to ensure our medium has strong share of mind.
This share of mind is vital in many areas, not just the advertiser food chain. It is also vital that we communicate the positives our industry delivers to the UK economy and to the local communities we operate in via the income that many public authorities derive from our medium.”
BroadSign is the leading global digital signage software maker. Being a top vendor in the digital signage and DOOH markets, the company is keenly aware that its success depends in part on the strength of the industry as a whole.
From its early days as a tiny start up in 2003 to today’s market dominance, BroadSign has been an active member of OAAA and several digital signage and DOOH associations in the US and in other countries.
According to Stephanie Gutnik, Director of Marketing and Business Development, BroadSign is currently a member of more than 10 trade associations spanning several vertical and geo markets.
“BroadSign joins an association when at least one company representative is able to assume the responsibility of actively participating in the organization’s initiatives and events. We do not simply join to have our logo on a webpage. We join to contribute and collaborate,” Gutnik says.
Based on my conversations with numerous OOH companies over the years and before writing this article, I think the answer to the question in the headline (Does OOH Need Trade Associations?) is best summed up by BroadSign’s Gutnik:
“Trade associations are absolutely necessary to support a healthy industry, both at the government level and for building cohesion within the industry itself.
If the OOH/DOOH industry did not have trade associations in place, standing up to regulations threatening digital billboards (for example) would be a great challenge. Moreover, our space has traditionally been difficult for brands to purchase given its differences from the likes of TV and digital. As such, having associations to represent the interests of DOOH media owners and vendors when it comes to measurement, mobile, and automated transactions (programmatic) helps to solidify efforts and make everyone better heard and understood.”