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The Great Outdoors

(October 2008) posted on Thu Oct 30, 2008

Out-of-home's growth has no end in sight.

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By Stephen Freitas

In all of these examples, tried-and-true outdoor formats were upgraded by technology, creating an entirely new experience for the consumer. Yet other areas are seeing entirely new forms of advertising.

In Chicago and New York City, among other localities, advertisers are turning to vacant (or even occupied) storefronts to attract attention at eye level. These storefront ads can be up to a city block long, such as a New York installation for the new television series, "Fringe." By using underutilized window space, outdoor advertising is finding ways to survive and thrive in areas with limited billboard inventory or other, traditional forms of outdoor advertising.

Environmental initiatives
Companies throughout the out-of-home market are looking to become more eco-friendly.

Single sheet PE and PP posters are designed for recycling, which represents a significant reduction in the amount of waste being deposited in landfills. PE and PP posters can be converted into a reusable raw material, and outdoor advertising companies are beginning to take notice. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America is working with industry leaders to outline recycling plans, which can help turn used posters into new products.

Billboards themselves are also being turned into eco-friendly installations. A transition to LED lights from halogen lamps reduces energy consumption by 50 percent. Many billboards lit by four halogen lamps are now being lit by advanced lamps that only require two to adequately illuminate the entire board.

In some cases, billboards themselves are even being turned into power-generating plants. A pilot program underway in Florida and a similar pilot in San Francisco use solar panels mounted on the billboards to generate power to light the billboard. These systems contribute to the powering of billboards during the day, providing a clean source of power to help reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Bus shelters in Chicago are also using solar power to handle lighting demands, and rainwater collection systems to provide water for cleaning and maintenance tasks.

Also in development are wind turbines mounted between billboard faces. These wind turbines would serve much the same purpose as the solar panels, providing enough power to light the billboards.

A bright future
So outdoor advertising is not only one of the oldest mass media, it’s also one of the hottest. Its annual revenue growth is second only to the Internet and it’s likely to remain that way for some time to come.

Consumer habits are changing in a permanent way, making them more receptive to outdoor advertising. Technology is helping, not hurting the industry, in contrast to many other media. The medium is expanding into new areas and re-invigorating traditional forms. And by becoming more environmentally friendly, the medium is maintaining its place as a responsible corporate citizen encouraging many "green" advertisers to continue to do business with the industry.

For advertising companies, this means outdoor will figure into comprehensive media plans. For consumers, it means the increased potential to learn about new products in those locales where they are most likely to consider making purchases. And for businesses using outdoor, it means better return on investment and an increase in sales.

Stephen Freitas is the chief marketing officer for the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (