Forecast 2009: Out of Home
Sector will eke out growth, as digital leads the way
Jan 5, 2009
It’s unclear how much out-of-home advertising will be down, if at all, in 2009. Certain segments, which are helping to grow the scope of the business, are poised for healthy growth, including all digital components, led by cinema advertising and in-store networks, digital billboards and other alternative displays.
Traditional out of home—led by the nation’s largest outdoor companies (Clear Channel, CBS Outdoor and Lamar Advertising) and still the largest segment of the industry—is facing some of the same challenges as other traditional media. Like other media, it’s a buyer’s market for OOH inventory, and companies such as Lamar have been open about cutting rates. But unlike other media, there still seems to be plenty of activity from advertisers.
“Even though all our clients are facing challenging environments, there’s a steady commitment to the space,” said Chris Gagen, senior vp and managing director for Posterscope. “At a time when people are trying to gain efficiencies, the low cost for high reach is a great proposition.”
Estimates put the business at flat to up 1 or 2 percent, which isn’t bad compared to other media, but it’s far below the medium’s high single-digit growth of the last few years. PQ Media forecast total out of home to be up 3 percent to $8.5 billion. Growing at a much faster pace, digital OOH is forecast to be up 9.1 percent to $2.65 billion. With digital outpacing traditional outdoor, it’s expected to account for more than 27 percent of total revenue in 2009, up from 15.8 percent in 2008. “The trends in the out-of-home business are better than the other mass-media segments, especially on the digital alternative side,” said Patrick Quinn, president and CEO, PQ Media. “Digital has been a plus for this business, whereas it’s been an interrupter in other businesses.”
Still, a bad economy is expected to take its toll on how quickly the nascent digital business matures, since conditions are unlikely to improve in ’09. The credit crisis makes it harder for digital OOH startups to receive financing and for companies to merge. Only one merger of note was completed early last fall before credit markets seized up, when Fuelcast (a digital network at gas pumps) and Bhootan (a digital network at a variety of retail locations) merged to form Outcast. It’s a testament to the appeal of digital OOH that only one player, Reactrix, went under last year.
And even though digital boards are a moneymaker for traditional companies, it still costs much-needed capital to build them out. To save money, Lamar Advertising temporarily suspended its digital rollout in ’09 and will convert only 100 next year versus a planned 400.
In the absence of significant mergers, aggregators such as SeeSaw Networks and Adcentricity have made it easier to plan and buy inventory across scores of networks. And with the Traffic Audit Bureau’s “eyes on ratings” for traditional out of home poised to be issued in the coming weeks, there is plenty of optimism that out of home will outperform most other media.