FEPE International Conference 2013

FEPE is an International federation of Out of Home (OOH) advertising, founded in Paris in 1959 by a pioneer of OOH Jacques Dauphin, that holds an annual conference to discuss the medium. This year’s conference was held in the heady yet gritty city of Berlin, which has swiftly transformed into one of the world’s edgiest cities since it was reunified in 1989. Our CEO, Roy Jeans attended, and was a panel member at one of the sessions held at the conference this week past. Read his thoughts on the event here.

This year’s FEPE Congress was held in the Adlon Kempinski in Berlin, both a wonderfully re-furbished hotel that had stood derelict for many years in no-man’s-land when the Wall was up, and the occasional fictional home for Bernie Gunther, Philip Kerr’s Marlowe-inspired detective who patrolled the streets of 1930’s Berlin with varying success. With Checkpoint Charlie being no more than 10 minutes away, and the overwhelming Holocaust memorial Field of Stone being 100 metres away, it was difficult to escape the ever-present history that defines Berlin.   

Nearly 300 delegates had gathered from as far apart as Angola and Argentina, through to Uganda and the Ukraine, to discuss all matters OOH.  Despite FEPE having been historically a European-focused congress, this year there were also large contingents from South Africa (not a surprise given the excellent stewardship of Barry Sayer, FEPE’s President, and himself a South African), Australia, Nigeria, India and Canada. One unsurprising theme that therefore developed over the two days was the accelerated globalisation of the OOH medium. Antonio Alonso, CBS Outdoor International’s President and CEO, made the point that there are effectively three or four global players in OOH that provide a product consistency pretty much wherever you are. William Eccleshare – CEO of Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings – wondered aloud whether there would be a moment in the near future where the top global advertisers would engage directly with these key three or four players to frame effective global OOH strategies.

There was much discussion about the way that OOH digital could be used to win revenue away from competitive media channels, with Jeremy Male, CEO UK, Northern Europe and Australia from JCDecaux, suggesting that OOH’s challenges divided into the four key areas of Data usage, Mobile interaction, Content delivery and what he called “the Rise of the Machines” at the access/negotiation part of the buying process. There was also debate about the role of the OOH specialist in this media process, kicked off by Christof Baron, CEO of Mindshare Germany, who felt that there was a disconnect sometimes between the media agency and the OOH specialist.

There was also talk about how the industry could use the developing overlap between social media, mobile interaction and OOH to drive more revenue growth. It was clear that whatever market was being discussed, the issues around mobile were broadly the same – namely that OOH will continue to become a more important part of the media mix by hitching its product to the mobile world.  Although in this context Europe was described by more than one speaker as the regional laggard behind both the US and Asia.   

The overall tone of this superbly-organised congress was one of quietly confident expectation. Every speaker predicted that OOH would play an enhanced role in this new media landscape – it was just the degree of this growth that was unclear. The regional differences between the key trading blocks were also pretty stark. For the Europeans in the hall it was quite a sobering experience, and a reminder of the new economic realities of the early 21st Century – strangely in a city that defined some of Europe’s darkest days in the 20th Century.      

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