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UK outdoor set for boost

News, 06 January 2015

LONDON: A combination of digital technology and a general election will deliver a boost to the UK's outdoor advertising industry during the course of 2015.

Billboards have traditionally been an important feature of political advertising during elections even though they have little direct impact on voter intentions or voter turnout. One observer described them rather as "six-metre-high, full-colour press releases" meant for journalists.

But the advent of digital billboard advertising could signal a change. According to Jon Lewis, chief executive of Outdoor Plus, digital billboards "will give political parties a chance to react to news in real time across the country's billboards".

Last weekend saw the first poster skirmish of the upcoming election campaign as both the main parties unveiled their initial efforts, accompanied by the traditional uncomplimentary analysis by commentators and the Twittersphere.

Lewis suggested that digital offered parties a great opportunity to jump on their rivals' mistakes. "There's no reason it can't be all over the billboards of the UK straight away," he told City AM. "It just depends how imaginative they can be."

Separately, the head of outdoor advertising group Clear Channel highlighted the interactive direction the outdoor industry is moving, linked to mobile phones and delivered by digital technology.

Andrew Morley told the Telegraph that London already had "one of the most advanced outdoor digital advertising environments in the world". His own company operates 40 state-of-the-art digital screens across the city and around 100 small format digital screens on bus shelters, branded as Adshel Live.

He saw great potential for the latter in particular and said that "over the next year we will be rolling out the Adshel Live digital programme to hundreds of locations".

It remains to be seen whether political parties take full advantage of the new possibilities offered by such technology or, if they do, whether voters will react favourably to being assailed by politicians while they wait for a bus.

Data sourced from Daily Telegraph, City AM, Independent, Economist; additional content by Warc staff