• Outdoor, radio and print-based media rarely see the focus that pure-play digital and television-related media do, but continue to offer significant opportunities for marketers.
• All marketers should regularly assess opportunities to use media beyond television and pure-play digital in their campaigns.
• Demand by other advertisers for a medium should not matter. What should matter is whether or not a medium is seeing investment so as to connect with audiences into the future.
Outdoor, radio and print-based media offer opportunities for marketers. So much of the industry’s focus is on television and digital media – specifically the largest internet-based, technology-focused sellers of digital advertising. This is particularly true of anything that combines elements of both, as streaming SVOD services. TV and Digital account for the bulk of industry-wide spending and investment and this co-dominance is unlikely to change any time soon, despite the shortcomings of each medium. These challenges include digital’s brand safety and/or brand-building issues and TV’s incrementally worsening reach and ever-rising prices.
Simple math: an advertising economy growing at low-to-mid single digits, with digital accounting for around half of all spending and growing at least twice that rate in many instances, does not leave much opportunity for other media. However, other media may offer real benefits and maintain the potential for faster growth in the future than in the recent past, especially as they develop their own directly related digital assets.
Outdoor advertising is growing faster than the rest of the industry aside from pure-play digital media. Recent results from many of the world’s sellers of outdoor advertising have been very favorable with relatively rapid growth. Our most recent estimates for the industry indicated growth of more than +6% globally this year.
So, what is behind this trend?
First, owners of outdoor-related ad inventory have invested in digital infrastructure, including a capacity to buy the medium programmatically. There is also widening availability of digital out-of-home inventory from niche providers. This encourages a wider range of advertisers to use the medium and provides some confidence in the long-term opportunities to reallocate budgets within the medium more efficiently. Second, OOH’s effectiveness is relatively undiminished by fragmentation or ad avoidance, at least where related real estate is constrained by local laws and regulations. Outdoor is also benefitting because there are many fast-growing marketers who believe the medium is a superior alternative to television when goals are focused around brand-building and target audiences are in geographically narrow areas.
Radio maintains wide reach and real impact, but growth is more modest. Radio, or more accurately “audio,” has generally been less robust than outdoor or television in recent years. Like outdoor, however, innovation in audio has been percolating for years and has recently achieved more meaningful scale; the medium has the potential to benefit from advertisers looking to stray from pure-play digital and television-based advertising.
Traditional radio has arguably always been very effective, so long as an advertiser was willing to invest in appropriate creative content and manage what can be, in some countries, a relatively fragmented medium. However, it also suffered from negative perceptions, a reputation made worse when trade associations of traditional broadcasters failed to embrace emerging industry participants. It has also been hard, or at least expensive, to buy and steward campaigns, relative to other broadcast media.
Anyone looking to recommend spending on radio needed to overcome these issues. Happily for owners of radio-related assets, streaming services and satellite radio helped to improve the reputation of the medium as a whole. Podcasting – while modest in size – has seemingly captured the attention of marketers in a meaningful way as well, and programmatic buying of radio is helping overcome some of the aforementioned executional issues in some countries. Now we are at a place where audio can be judged on its own merits, which remain relatively healthy given the medium’s wide reach and high levels of consumption.
Print still struggles, but there are niches with opportunities for long-term growth. While once dominant in almost every country, print’s struggles selling advertising have been pronounced. They have suffered because the goals it tried to help large brands meet – consumer engagement, for example – were directly provided more efficiently by digital media. This introduced substantial competition to media owners who often had very little direct competition in a pre-digital era. And as digital media expanded, circulation of print titles fell, making what was left of print less worthwhile for marketers than ever before. By now, what is left of print as a medium can still be very effective for marketers, but the scale is so different that it is best viewed as a niche platform.
Many traditional publishers have already built meaningful digital business for consumers, although success is often dependent upon subscription fees and a broad geographic focus. For these publishers, advertising is best viewed as a complementary source of revenue alongside other activities like events.
Publishers who have transitioned their business orientation from print to digital expanded their geographic presence and invested in new business lines but have not been able to establish much of a subscription business. This puts them in a more precarious position regardless of the value their content brings to advertisers. All publishers are challenged to cover the costs of content good enough to hold consumer attention for meaningful amounts of time and also good enough in context to warrant advertiser association. This will remain an ongoing challenge.
All marketers should regularly assess opportunities to use media beyond television and pure-play digital in their campaigns. Just because a medium is growing fast, slow or declining does not mean it cannot be impactful for a marketer now or in the future. What matters is whether or not the media owner is investing in opportunities to connect with audiences. Marketers also need resources to capitalize on opportunities involving media that are incremental to existing plans. Doing so likely helps to improve the overall impact of their efforts.
Moreover, ongoing investments into alternative sources of media inventory – and finding best practices that exist within them – may help to improve the use of traditional TV and digital media, both of which are likely to persist as the dominant forms of media into the future.