Total revenues for the out-of-home advertising industry were basically flat in the first quarter, with a modest 0.7% decline to $1.3 billion, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. While nobody will be breaking out the champagne quite yet, this represents a significant improvement over previous quarters and holds out hope for positive growth over the remaining three quarters of 2010.
A number of categories showed year-over-year growth in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, including government, politics, and organizations (up 22% to $71.2 million) media (up 13% to $109 million) and financial (up 7.3% to $88.3 million).
However, these were offset by declines in automotive (down 14.6% to $56.7 million), insurance and real estate (down 12.4% to $79.1 million), communications (down 8.1% to $99 million) and transportation, hotels, and resorts (down 2.7% to $130.4 million).
In the years before the recession, out-of-home advertising enjoyed one of the strongest growth rates next to the Internet. Billboard owners are hoping for a return to this kind of sustained expansion whenever the economy begins to recover.
According to several recent industry forecasts, new growth will be powered mostly by the burgeoning new medium of digital out-of-home displays, which allow signage to employ sight and motion (and less frequently, sound). By allowing signage operators to display multiple ads, digital signage also allows them to sell ad inventory by dayparts, charging higher prices for high-traffic periods.
Digital out-of-home also offers possibilities for innovative measurement through mobile interactivity and technologies, which can track consumer exposure and interaction with the signs.