“We Are Not Being Disrupted By Fragmentation”: oOh!’s Cathy O’Connor Discusses Out-Of-Home’s Renaissance

“We Are Not Being Disrupted By Fragmentation”: oOh!’s Cathy O’Connor Discusses Out-Of-Home’s Renaissance
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

After a difficult 18 months for Out-Of-Home, oOh!’s half yearly numbers show a format poised for bounce back. oOh!s CEO, Cathy O’Connor, spoke to B&T about what we can expect for the format’s future.

The results saw overall revenue lift by 23 per cent to $251.6 million, an impressive increase from the same time last year.

Perhaps expectedly, the leading format for oOh! has been road, including large format billboard, street furniture and bus shelters.

As well as road, O’Connor, explained, the retail sector has also been significant in OOH’s recovery.

“As you’d imagine, given the limited environments that people are now allowed to actually move within, retail has been one of those bright spots,” O’Connor said.

“It might have been a chore in a prior life, but it’s now one of the pleasures of your day to be able to actually go to a supermarket.”

However, O’Connor explained, the top categories for Out-Of-Home in 2021 show “very little movement” when compared to 2019, pre-pandemic.

She cites the fact that, “the same number one category is food, and [it’s] pretty understandable why that would be going well. Retail is continually at or near the 2019 levels. It’s about 10 per cent, down, I think on 2019. But there have been times in the pandemic where retail hasn’t needed to spend, particularly at the grocery end of that sector.”

“Of course government spend is is up over that period, about 18 per cent increase across the sector, and there’s obvious reasons for that as well,” she continued.

One of the key areas for growth, though, between 2019 and 2021 has been the domestic media sector: TV, radio, and domestic streaming services. According to O’Connor, it has increased 63 per cent.

“That really speaks to the confidence of the media sector itself,” she explained.

“We’re all looking at similar agencies, similar customers, the confidence that the sector is looking ahead to recovery. I think that’s a really interesting statistic.”

Reflecting on OOH more generally, O’Connor said, “one of the observations I had in joining the out of home sector was how much more engaged the sector is.  I think it’s a high percentage of total spend relative to some other forms of established media. The conversations are very collaborative between industry and the sector around things like standardization, around measurement, and the evolution of the move measurement system.”

“I think that there’s a lot being done to standardize Out-Of-Home, make it easier to buy, and to create a common currency for the sector, across metropolitan and regional Australia, and a lot more formats that aren’t currently measured by move. ”

“Equally, we work with the industry around things like verification, which is the proof of posting in the old world, but now in a digital world, how we verify digital campaigns and show that they are published as they were bought. [This] is very important in achieving that accountability that most modern advertisers want to see from their media partners,” she continued.

“All of those bodies of work have really accelerated and in the next year to two years, we’ll come to their  defining completion. I think once we get to the other end of that, you’ll see an absolute step change for how Out-Of-Home is perceived.”

Earlier this year, oOh! announced they would be narrowing their focus on OOH, shedding digital youth publisher Junkee. It will be sold later this year.

O’Connor has been clear that the reason for the sale, and the focus on oOh’s future investments, will be a clear, exclusive emphasis on Out-Of-Home.

“One of the reasons for that is that Out-Of-Home is already a mass rich medium. And, its audiences are only growing, with population growth and further urbanization across major metropolitan cities and of course, the larger regional centers as well where oOH! media has coverage. So we are not being disrupted by fragmentation,” she said.

“As a matter of fact, the industry isn’t subject to those sort of declining legacy audiences. So for that reason, we don’t really need to couple with other media to demonstrate scale. I think equally, digitization brings a lot of new usage cases for out of home, that really allow it to advocate for a higher share of wallet against other media.”

“We really do see that there are many, many pillars that mean focus within the Out-Of-Home sector is the path to growth for us,” O’Connor continued.

“None of those things require us to partner with other media to be delivered. I think also the fact that oOh!Media itself has such breadth and scale,  that we’re reasonably able to leverage across the different environments and big audiences.”

O’Connor believes that focusing purely on Out-Of-Home reflects the global market, too.

“If you look globally, across the Out-Of-Home sector, all of the prominent, successful companies are pure play Out-Of-Home companies. Historically, there have been Out-Of-Home companies that exist within larger, more diverse media companies. But they are very few. And principally, these are standalone businesses.”

“I think it’s because they can take that story of mass reach and digital on a standalone basis into the future, which very few other established media businesses can do.

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