OOH and radio “will both grow at television’s expense”: Cathy O’Connor

oOh!media - sustainability pay equity Cathy O'Connor

Radio might be TV’s “ultimate sidekick” according to Mark Ritson, but oOh! Media CEO Cathy O’Connor insists out-of-home is “equally a great companion to television.”

Radio might be TV’s “ultimate sidekick” according to Mark Ritson, but oOh! Media CEO Cathy O’Connor insists out-of-home is “equally a great companion to television.”

Last week, Ritson presented research to Commercial Radio Australia’s HEARD conference which showed that campaigns investing 11% in radio can double their effectiveness. That makes radio Robin to TV’s Batman, Ritson argued.

But O’Connor, who was previously CEO of radio network Nova for 12 years, is confident that both radio and OOH can claw dollars away from TV: “We will both grow at television’s expense,” she told Mediaweek.

“I’d understand at a radio conference that the messages would be pro radio. And I worked in radio for a long time … it certainly is a very good companion medium. But if you look at the growth in SMI [Standard Media Index] of out of home, it is materially larger than the growth in any other channel, including radio, which has been in decline.

“Television as a market is three times the size of out of home, and more than three times the size of radio. So it may be possible that both hypotheses are true, we will both grow at television’s expense.”

O’Connor says OOH is already growing at television’s expense. And “We’re [oOh! Media] the largest player in out of home. So obviously, we stand to benefit the most when out of home grows … I think we’ll have to see how radio goes over the next couple of years to see if the same applies to them.”

In 2023, Guideline SMI’s figures showed television down 13.9%, radio down 5.9%, and outdoor up 15.1% – a record high. Announcing the ad spend results earlier this month, Guideline SMI’s APAC managing director Jane Ractliffe said: “Outdoor media’s recovery from the Covid era has been quite extraordinary.” 2023 revenues were 70% greater than those of 2020, and 43.3% above 2021. 

oOh! Media’s growth according to Guideline SMI last year was 14.5%, O’Connor says. “That was a record for the industry. And it was against a media market that declined 3%.”

The large format billboard arm of the business, which oOh! refers to as ‘Road’, is almost 50% up on 2019. “We believe this mass reach big impact channel in out of home is rapidly replacing what some of that destination television would have done in its day.”

O’Connor credits this growth to a range of factors: “compelling” CPMs, investment in digital assets, the ability to buy programmatically, innovation in the data lead-targeting space, and advances in OOH creative such as 3D anamorphic billboards, and dynamic creative that changes in response to the weather, time of day, or news headlines.

“We are doing a lot in trying to educate, inspire creative agencies around our home,” O’Connor says, referencing POLY, the creative and content business led by Neil Ackland, oOh’s chief content, marketing and creative officer and the former co-founder of youth site Junkee, which oOh! divested from in 2021.

O’Connor believes creative agencies will inject more of the creative reverence usually reserved for TV films into OOH, and that improvements in measurement will help too.

MOVE 2.0, the next iteration of the industry’s digital OOH measurement system, is coming in the second half of the year, O’Connor says. It will give marketers a view of all formats, “right down to the hour across metro and regional on an apples for apples basis. So it’s pretty compelling stuff. And really is a world class standard data set that we’re investing in right now.”

O’Connor’s comments came after the release of oOh! Media’s full year 2023 results, which she says are “very positive”: 7% revenue growth and a 10% jump in reported profits. They also come on the heels of a hiring spree.

Beginning with Paul Sigaloff‘s addition this time last year, the business has since added Prue Cox as group director – data, solutions and digital sales, Georgie Fox to lead the programmatic sales team, Andrew Every as chief strategy and transformation officer (he begins next week), and former UnLtd CEO Chris Freel as group sales director – Australia.

O’Connor says the run will now slow: “We’ve substantially got all the puzzle pieces in place, certainly at the senior level.”

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