The industry took in $1.3 billion in revenues in the first three months of 2004, up 5 percent from the same period a year ago. A report was released Tuesday by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group.
That continues the outdoor industry's steady growth, which it has seen since the advertising recovery began in earnest. And it continues outdoor's positive trend, which stretches beyond that because when other media were down, outdoor had merely flat revenues.
A number of ad categories were strong in the first quarter:
Insurance/Real Estate, which grew 32.5 percent to $111.5 million. It's the sector's fourth-largest ad category, bringing in about 8.5 percent of total revenues.
Local Services/Amusements, which grew 10.8 percent to $203.4 million. This category is the largest in the industry, responsible for 15.5 percent of the total revenues.
Automotive/Automotive Accessories & Equipment, a category that increased 9.3 percent to $81.3 million in the first quarter. It's responsible for 6.2 percent of total revenues.
Only two of 10 categories tracked by the trade group fell--public transportation/hotels/resorts (down 4.1 percent to $128.6 million) and media/advertising (down 11 percent to $94.5 million).
Nancy Fletcher, president and chief executive officer of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, said Tuesday that the results showed that outdoor was finding its way into more media plans. She noted that outdoor was more than just billboards--although that encompassed about 62 percent of all outdoor last year--and it's now also mall ads, bus shelters, etc.
Many outdoor advertisers are local companies, although there are several big national companies like McDonald's and Coca-Cola that use it heavily. Fletcher said the industry is working to grow its market share by appealing to national advertisers who haven't tried outdoor yet. It's doing that by continuing to get the word out about outdoor as well as emphasizing improvements in creative.
As interest in outdoor media grows, so do the methods of measurement. Both Nielsen and Arbitron are interested in providing ratings for the industry. Nielsen completed a GPS-based test in South Africa, and has begun its field work in Chicago. Preliminary data is expected later this month, and when it's ready for the marketplace in September, it will be the first commercial ratings available for outdoor advertising. A plan to have nine other markets online is proceeding.
Arbitron has tested its system in Atlanta, and is now working to fully incorporate GPS into its system. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America has helped to fund both initiatives.
When measurement comes online in a major way, Fletcher predicts it will help the industry increase its footprint.
"The real growth to come for the industry will come out of the ratings," she said. "There will be national advertisers, those advertisers who have not been using the medium in a big way."