A Media TrilOOHgy Part 3: If you want to milk the cash cow you need to go MOOH

The OOH industry is a bit like the Tardis. It’s a great deal bigger than it looks from the outside and like the Tardis, nobody, not even The Doctor really knows how it works. From the outside the OOH industry looks like 4,7% of advertising investment in South Africa but when you step inside and start factoring in all the component-players who power the sector, it looks a lot more like 11,8% of total adspend. That’s a huge chunk of energy that’s not being directed into the engine room. R2,4 billion to be precise.

Historically the OOH industry has presented its face and supposedly its case to the media industry through OHMSA (Out of Home Media SA). The OHMSA name has undergone several iterations over the past 35 years but the focus has remained much the same. In recent years though, OHMSA has lost a great deal of traction in terms of its ability to present a holistic OOH offering to the industry.

To the outsider peering through the door of OHMSA, it would appear that internal dissension has significantly pruned the membership tree and stunted it’s growth but given the obvious nature of the collective enemy facing the OOH sector, one can only wonder “why”? Surely there is sufficient common ground … sufficient common cause … to direct the co-ordinated energies of the OOH industry into taking on the Darleks (or is that NABleks) who are trying to take over the mediaverse?

Surely there can be no bigger task than trying to grow OOH share of the pie? And I’m not just talking about improving the reporting, I’m talking about really growing the sector.

A significant part of the problem is due the historical pre-occupation with legislative and regulatory matters, rather than with stimulating growth. A glance at the Aims and Objectives as outlined in the OHMSA Constitution is revealing. It starts with a stated aim “to promote and to protect the interests of the Association and its members” and ends 13 points later with the need “to enforce expeditiously the strict compliance by its members of the provisions of this Constitution”.

In between this Alpha and Omega of stated purpose, there is very little clear reference to actually marketing the OOH sector to the media industry. In fact in over 20 pages of legalese there are only two veiled references to actually promoting the medium …

  • to promote and publicize the OOH industry, by way of advertisements, exhibitions & otherwise
  • to elevate the skills, knowledge levels and professionalism of employees and users of OOH media

And there hasn’t been a lot of either going on of late.

If OHMSA is to once again assume the mantle of OOH champion, shouldn’t the focus be shifting from trying to regulate the industry towards selling the efficacy of the medium in the new millennium? That is not to say there should be no regulation but there will always be sharp practice in the industry. Caveat Emptor! Rather train clients on the value of an uncluttered OOH environment than to lambast them for going in where angels fear to tread.

If you want to wash your dirty linen in public fine, but while all this internal squabbling over “legal” and “illegal” sites has been going on,  the Cybermen have stolen what is arguably the most powerful OOH medium of them all, tablets and mobile phones. If there was ever a medium that belonged in OHMSA its digital but you’re not going to draw them in if you start off by throwing the rule book at them.

It’s time for OHMSA to change its primary focus and quite possibly its name. It’s time to start Marketing Out of Home. If you want to milk the cash cow you need to go MOOH!