Stiff competition in outdoor advertising recovery

Dominic Bernard
Monday, September 18, 2023

While out-of-home (OOH) print advertising continues to be squeezed by digital advertising’s more rapid growth and fierce sector competition, it continues to grow as the sector returns to pre-pandemic levels.

The UK's advertising spend in H1 2023 was dominated by food and leisure companies. Source: Nielsen's AdIntel
The UK's advertising spend in H1 2023 was dominated by food and leisure companies. Source: Nielsen's AdIntel

The OOH advertising sector’s buoyant recovery from Covid – now trading at just 3% below 2019 levels – has exacerbated the divide between digital and print providers, according to fresh data.

Research by Outsmart, the trade body for OOH advertising, in collaboration with PwC, found that digital outdoor had jumped by 6.1% in the first half of 2023, outstripping printed advertising’s more modest 2.4% growth.

Digital advertising has thus maintained its dominant position in the market with 63% of market share.

For printers, however, the pressure is largely coming from below as firms fight for their share in the market’s recovery, according to Simon McKenzie, managing director of £12m wide-format group Hollywood Monster.

He told Printweek: “In today’s world, the printer that sits back, holds onto existing clients and expects growth will find itself in trouble very, very quickly.

“There’s lots of work out there, but there is also a lot of competition and the market is changing.”

With the advent of cheaper entry-level wide-format printers, McKenzie explained, smaller customers are increasingly able to keep work in-house.

“You have a battle out there,” he added.

“So you have to put yourself in front of these advertisers and agencies, and commit to a different angle.”

One such angle, he said, is sustainability. Hollywood Monster has itself begun generating carbon reports for its higher-volume accounts, giving customers a monthly review of the carbon emitted, saved, and how many metres of material have been diverted from landfill.

“Using sustainability can be key – it’s what they want to hear. You have to keep coming up with new ideas that can help you stand out in the crowd,” McKenzie said.

For Emerge Advertising, Wales’ largest roadside billboard owner, one such tactic has been their use of lenticular printing, with advertisers able to see a different message on static boards depending on the direction of travel.

Managing director Shaun Jones told Printweek that by printing in-house on its stable of Canon Colorado 1650, Mimaki JFX flatbed, and recently delivered EFI Pro 30h hybrid printer, he is able to offer advertisers – often broadcasters – extremely competitive prices for these special builds.

“We’re essentially trying to keep adapting our business, and keep innovating in our use of large-format print for OOH, to make jaw-dropping experiences for broadcasters,” he said.

Outdoor advertising is dominated by large accounts, with massive corporations like McDonalds – at £42m in the first half of 2023 alone – battling for the top spot.

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