There's plenty of action in the outdoor space at the moment, with yet more consolidation, a major new arrival and a continuing focus on developing digital out-of-home networks. And now iSite Media's got a big new toy to play with, switching on its 8m wide x 16m high digital billboard in the Auckland CBD that has taken the crown as the nation's largest.
The LED behemoth on the corner of Victoria and Hobson Street forms a key part of iSite’s Aura network, which launched with two digital billboards in Newmarket. It is visible from over 1km across the heart of the city and Victoria, as it's affectionately known, takes over from APN Outdoor's 'Apollo' at Auckland Airport as the biggest.
In a similar fashion to APN Outdoor, which launched its first digital billboard in July 2014, and Adshel, which launched its roadside digital network earlier this year, iSite says the new 'Spectacular' site has generated big advertiser demand and it counts Adidas, Air New Zealand, Coca-Cola, Holden, Sky TV and Spark as launch partners.
"The Victoria represents the ambition of iSite Media to deliver world-class digital outdoor advertising to New Zealand," says chief executive Wayne Chapman. "This site is a culmination of thousands of man hours of work and investment in the latest digital screen technology. It joins our existing Aura collection as the beginning of a significant roll out of both network and spectacular digital billboards over the coming months.”
Auckland Council outlines its general position on billboards in its Bylaw No 27B from 2007 and while regulations about visual impact and safety have meant it's taken a while for it to warm to digital displays (both large and small format), Chapman said in April that he’s sure the council recognises they form part of and enhance vibrant cityscapes all around the world and the numbers have increased gradually as concerns have been put to rest.
“Nonetheless, proposed digital sites are assessed critically and must meet stringent criteria,” he said. “The companies that have achieved consents have worked hard to provide a level of comfort to the council in respect to perceived concerns in the areas of distraction, and impact to visual amenity. It is no coincidence that the progress has been achieved by highly credible, experienced companies prepared to engage collaboratively and constructively with council and take a responsible approach.”
Chapman says there is evidence that, even in its infancy in this market, digital has succeeded in introducing new advertisers and categories to out of home advertising.
“Longer term the increased flexibility and dynamism afforded by DOOH (digital out of home advertising) will undoubtedly be instrumental in growing the sector," Chapman says. “There’s the next generation display, the fact that LED presents high resolution images, very crisp and clear and constitutes a premium environment ... Ads could be day-parted. [Advertisers] could be showing a bacon and egg McMuffin in the morning and a Big Mac meal as people drive home in the evening. In theory, it’s a lot more responsive."
He said it was too early to tell whether large formats or smaller formats were more effective, and said “both formats provide distinct benefits despite sharing much valuable DNA".
"The smaller formats are generally used in conjunction, providing geographic and audience reach, while the scale and impact of 'The Victoria' conveys brands instant fame, stature and gravitas.”
Following the acquisition of OTW in 2011, iSite's total number of billboards increased to over 500, 70 percent of them in Auckland. And iSite, which was acquired by Infratil in 2011, says it is investing millions of dollars into developing new digital screens across New Zealand in the coming years. It also has the advertising concessions at Wellington and Queenstown International Airports. And it represents over 34 percent of the total New Zealand outdoor advertising market, based on OMANZ member revenue.
Outdoor advertising in New Zealand grew by eight percent last year to return to its RWC-inspired high in 2011 of $83 million. That gave it 3.5 percent market share of total ad revenue and OMANZ has a stated goal of getting to five percent market share of total advertising spend (although it hasn't put a time frame on that). At present, it's looking pretty good, with consistent growth in recent years. OMANZ was unable to provide data on the overall rise of digital for the sector in this market. But Australia recently charted 23 percent year on year growth in the out-of-home sector and, with static inventory flat, that was driven by new revenue coming in from digital.
iSite expects digital outdoor to drive 30 percent growth in the outdoor market in the next five years. And APNO's Phil Clemas said he could see "advertising spend on digital assets in outdoor in New Zealand reaching 12 percent within the next year or so".
And while Victoria will no doubt make her presence felt in this market, we've got a way to go before we can compete with the football field-sized beast in Times Square, or the 250m x 12m monster in Saudi Arabia.