A Media TrilOOHgy Part 1: Jerry Maguire and the media mirror.


On my very first day in media I asked my Media Director, the legendary Frank “FK” Muller, what I thought was a very reasonable question. “What’s the key to media planning”? Without hesitation he replied “it’s all done with mirrors”. Personally I’d been hoping for something a little more substantial. Perhaps even a manual. But no! That was it. It’s all done with mirrors.


And of course after 35 years in the business I now know that he was absolutely right.


You have to present your thought process and the data in the best possible light in order to sell yourself and your plan. It’s a case of shifting the angle of the mirror to create the right perspective on the data. Never to crook the data but to extract new and meaningful insights from the data.  That’s why I still love the manifesto from my alma mater McCann Erickson … “The Truth Well Told”.


So you have to ask yourself why the OOH industry has consistently chosen to adjust the mirror to reflect itself in the worst possible light.


Nielsen Media publishes the definitive database reporting adspend in Mzansi. Adex. Now Adex isn’t perfect but it is the adspend data benchmark. As a convention, media owners have historically reported their adspend figures at gross rate card level. As planners we know that this is not the “bottom line” in terms of actual media owner revenue but nothing wrong. Just using the mirror to show themselves in the best possible light. The Truth Well Told.


The OOH industry, on the other hand has chosen to report actual “net net” revenue figures. That is adspend net of discount and net of agency commission. This equates to some R1,6 billion annually or 4,7% share of voice. But in order to make an apples to apples comparison with other media we need to reweight this figure back up to a nominal gross rate card rate.  Assuming a very conservative 10% discount level and 16,5% agency commission, this means that OOH adspend is not R1,6 billion as reported but R2,1 billion.


Of course one of the other problems attached to reporting actual revenues is that many companies don’t want to effectively open their book to competitors. And so many OOH media owners don’t report adspend. A significant cross section of OOH companies, currently not reporting advertising revenue figures to Nielsen (incorporating OOH platforms such as large format building wraps and stadium perimeter boards, advertising in shopping malls, washrooms, fitting rooms and in-store, some forms of transit media and activations etc.) submitted annual gross revenue figures for independent scrutiny and inclusion in Advertising in the OOH Zone.


These combined adspend figures reflect at least an additional R2,4 Billion in advertising investment, which in turn significantly boosts total OOH adspend to some R4,1 Billion or about 11,8% of advertising investment. This estimated figure corresponds more favourably other emerging markets such as Russia (16%), China (11%) and Mexico (9,5%) and what is really significant in local terms, is that it means the OOH sector is bigger than the magazine sector in terms of advertising support.



So how does this help the OOH industry? Once again it comes down to mirrors and the power of normative planning. Against current reported norms, when a planner invests 7% of budget in OOH clients are inclined to ask “why are you over-investing in OOH”? If the norm is 11,8% then 7% represents an under-investment and is a much easier sell. You double the OOH revenue though simple media mirror-nomics!


If Jerry Maguire was a media strategist I know which figure he’d rather be working with and just what he’d be saying to the OOH industry. Help me Help you! Find a way to report the adspend data to Adex. That way you complete me.