Inside the Mix

Out-of-home ad spending continues to rise as companies enjoy a wealth of alternatives

Out-of-home ad spending continues to rise as companies enjoy a wealth of alternatives

In an era in which marketers are making sure their messages are hitting customers from as many angles as possible, it's hardly surprising to find that the marketing formats that are growing the most are the ones that heretofore have been utilized the least.

Recent estimates by TNS Media Intelligence show out-of-home spending is outpacing ad spend as a whole, and is behind only online advertising and branded entertainment in terms of growth. And because this medium has been slower than others to take hold in the US, it's gaining attention at a time when it's more mature, and advertisers have options and aspirations beyond a huge billboard on a random roadside. A lot of marketing activity in that "gray area" between advertising, PR, and promotion tends to fall by default into this budget line.

Increasingly, billboard advertising has linked arms with field marketing and event planning, and the "living billboard" has been attempted by a few experimental marketers. CK One, the perfume we all loved to share with our boyfriends and girlfriends 10 years ago, did just that in Times Square last week, when it set up a giant billboard in the shape of the CK One bottle with alcoves for dancing models.

The event picked up plenty of media coverage, both before and after the fact, in media outlets all over the world. Of course, local snarkiness colored some of the coverage, including a New York Times piece describing the leather-pants-clad models wilting in the July heat.

The effort was billed as the first living billboard to occupy Times Square, which is something of a technicality given that barely a week goes by without some kind of live marketing and/or sampling activity there. Although the billboard had "stunt" written all over it, it was in fact integrated with CK One's other marketing efforts, not the least of which was its TV advertising, which the billboard replicated exactly. In addition, an extensive sampling campaign ran on the ground, with some 40,000 phials of the fragrance being handed out.

While the scent no doubt jogged plenty of memories from the older recipients, the effort was more to bring the smell to a new generation of CK One users. Sales at the NYC Macy's on the day of the event - thanks in no small part to a shuttle bus that ran between Times Square and Herald Square - were up 370% against the same day a year ago.

But the budget line for this type of work is still not an established one. While technically an out-of-home media spend, it's the money that goes into developing the creative that's hard to gather. Luanne Calvert, the founder of Mixed Marketing who devised the CK One billboard, says as she works with various brands on similar projects, her key client contact is often on the PR side.

As this type of marketing activity becomes more prevalent, Calvert and others are building businesses around it, and maybe there will be a line in the budget devoted to them one day. While her clients are typically PR people, they frequently don't have the budget to support the work. People like Calvert, and the PR departments they work with, stand to clean up when the line does appear, but until then, they will keep working on the principle, if you build it, they will come.

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