Meet Rapport’s director of investment James Rodham

James Rodham is Rapport’s director of investment.  Since joining the Rapport team almost 9 years ago, his negotiation skills were deemed so impressive that he was rewarded with a place in Campaign magazine’s Top 10 Media Buyers. Here he shares his views on the current Outdoor trading landscape – and how it needs to evolve.

The Olympics helped generate record OOH revenue growth of 25% in Q3 last year.  What knock-on effect, if any, did this have on OOH trading?

The Olympic factor created huge growth in certain formats. Taxis and transport – particularly specials and dominations – were in huge demand. But the challenge for the industry was always going to be sustaining it. For example, taxis have not quite hit the heights of 2012. On the flip side, the broadcast market was not affected too much by the Olympics due to the high level of inventory in the market place.
On a personal level though, the most interesting thing that I took away from the Olympic experience was the fact that a large amount of space was sold via an online trading system – and it actually worked rather well. There is clearly a future in this method, not perhaps on traditional business where campaigns require bespoke input, but it is more likely on digital activity – perhaps even in real-time.

What is your view on the current OOH trading landscape?  What environments and formats are trending and how is this likely to change in the next 12 months?

The market is generally quite flat (Q1 figures out last week confirm that), however that does not quite tell the full story. Billboards continue to sell well and have been the general format of choice for some time along with bus T-Sides. The other sector to generally trend well is super premium. You can see from looking around on the street that the technological brands such as Samsung and Apple compete for this space and that is to the benefit of the OOH market as well as the advertisers themselves because of the impact and standout that these formats offer. At the other end of the spectrum, broadcast 6 sheets have been a problem format for some time. The demand simply isn’t there to fill 71,000 every two weeks, however this creates some amazing value for our broadcast advertisers.

What effect is continued media owner investment having on demand and pricing? 

Most of the media owner investment is into digital. The problem with any OOH format is that the more there is, the cheaper it becomes. We only have to look at recent history to see that this pattern has occurred with scrollers & backlights – and now digital. The difference with digital is that the capital investment costs are so high that media owners cannot afford for the price to drop too low.  

Is the OOH platform as dynamic as it could be?  How could it be improved? 

Although we’ve ran some incredible campaigns for our clients that have broken Out Of Home advertising “rules”, traditional trading is still the norm. In order to fulfil the potential of Digital OOH and ensure that the media owners continue to invest in new networks and locations, we need to truly buy digital how it should be bought – with total flexibility based on client needs.  At Rapport we’ve made some real progress with this for our clients but it needs to be automatic. Media owners prefer standard two week business because it creates more yield at lower man hours – this has to change for DOOH to succeed.

With £1 in every £5 spent on OOH now going on Digital, is DOOH growing the medium – or cannibalizing traditional expenditure?

The danger is that it will cannibalise – so DOOH needs to be more flexible to grow OOH overall. If we as an industry start to trade it properly then we will pick up incremental investment from press/online budgets – but until we fully embrace that, the danger of cannibalisation remains.

OOH has now recovered to pre-recession levels of revenue generation.  How does it continue to grow?

I think Digital OOH has a huge part to play and if media owners make it more accessible, then the medium can truly grow. Clearly we can never take our eye off the bread and butter of traditional paper and vinyl – we are a broadcast medium after all – but we have said for many years that for the medium to really progress, we need to grow OOH to a 10%+ share of display advertising – and DOOH is the vehicle to do this.

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