By Emeka Oparah
Like press advertising, outdoor advertising seems to be in rapid decline and may be pronounced dead soon. Emeka Oparah. And this is how I knew: Just like the adverts pages have petered out from the newspapers, the number of vacant sites are growing and this is pan-Nigeria. Even before it dies, I can almost predict the cause of death: Mobile telecommunications!
There was a time when agencies and their clients were literally killing to be on every gantry or spectacular in the cities. In Lagos, members of the Out Door Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) and their nemesis cum partner-in-crime, the Lagos Advertising and Signage Agency (LAASA) were smiling to the bank-even as they defaced the skyline of the emerging megacity. Some of those sites cost more than $100,000 per side! That’s how ridiculous it was.
Those who were promoting that mode of communication described it as a “reminder medium”, claiming they provided some form of reinforcement to commuters of the communication they are already bombarded with on radio, television and press. Boom came digital advertising!
Advertising has to be targeted to be effective, ideally. So, advertisers took a second look and realized their bull’s-eye is glued to the mobile phone. Every segment of the market is hooked to these handheld devices. They wake up and sleep with them. They read newspapers on these devices. They listen to music on these devices. They shop on these devices. Above all, they interact with family and friends on these devices. So, it made sense to take advertising to them, where they mostly are-on their mobile phones and tables.
First, advertisers started cutting back on the budget for press ads. They saw it was good. They halved it or more. Some are down to less than 25% of press in their advertising budgets. Soon, it was the turn of outdoor. Who’s reminding who of what? Everybody’s glued to their mobile devices. So, all that “gist” about engaging “them” while they are commuting is now all baloney because folks are focused on some news, joke, chat, music, game, movie or whatever while on the go. Sorry.
To make matters worse, these outdoor hoardings cost a fortune! And the operators didn’t think of crashing the costs in view of the invading mobile or digital advertising compounded by the biting recession. From informal research, my haunch is that most of the OOHs will be vacated by March 31, when budget cycles close-for those that didn’t end in December. Contracts will be re-negotiated. Some advertisers might even elect to pay penalties for premature termination rather than carry on with those wasteful contracts.
2017 could be a red letter year for outdoor advertising, but being a dynamic industry, it will probably remain alive on the creativity and dexterity of the practitioners.