European Forum May 2021

The first event in WOO’s Grand Tour

European Forum May 2021

The World Out of Home Organization’s European Forum - the first event in WOO’s Grand Tour which will also take in Asia and Africa - celebrated a medium that, although battered and bruised by the pandemic, has, in Ocean Outdoor CEO Tim Bleakley’s words, “grown in stature and moved up the advertiser agenda.”

Out of Home, he said, had become the “global notice board” in the pandemic, a trusted environment for public service messages, the author of two notable global campaigns - WOO’s #OurSecondChance and Talon/Grand Visual’s #SendingLove - and numerous other initiatives demonstrating the power and impact of public media.

2021 is the year, he said, to turn these major achievements into commercial results as the world economy recovers.

Earlier WPP CEO Mark Read, clearly a fan of Out of Home (he said that the world’s biggest advertising company was mulling its own OOH campaign) had also  pointed to a strong global recovery as did a number of other Forum speakers. The mood of the virtual Forum was clearly one of measured optimism. CLI

Not everything in any garden is lovely of course and there are still issues for the OOH industry to face.


OOH Capital’s Annie Rickard, the former global CEO of Posterscope, lined up a star-studded panel to examine the industry’s record on diversity and Naren Patel of Media for All and Isabel Massey of Diageo spoke eloquently of the need for all media businesses to become truly diverse and reflect the make-up the communities they represented. This was a commercial as well as a moral imperative, said Patel, a former CEO of Primesight, while Massey outlined how Diageo now required those companies it worked with to demonstrate they offered fair opportunities for all. CLICK HERE TO WATCH PANEL


Boutaïna Araki, CEO of Clear Channel in France, reviewed the challenge faced by OOH in a world of ever-increasing regulation and global concern about damage to the environment. But she had good news for the OOH industry too:  its carbon emissions (even with the growth of digital screens) are a fraction of other media and, she reminded her audience, it’s the only medium that actually contributes directly to local communities through the provision of facilities, rates to municipalities and rent to landlords.


The one-day Forum concluded with a panel on programmatic convened by Global’s Mungo Knott which demonstrated clearly that, while programmatic offers the tantalising prospect of global executions at the click of a mouse, it is still very much a work in progress. Progress is being made - slowly - in the US and northern Europe (including the UK) but less so elsewhere with numerous DSPs and SSPs competing with each other. WOO President Tom Goddard, concluding the day, wondered of programmatic: “Will we ever get there?” 

Optimism tempered by realism is a good place for the OOH industry to be and the European Forum demonstrated that.
Underlying everything is its inherent strength as a public medium that, perhaps uniquely, is liked and enjoyed by consumers. As David McEvoy of JCDecaux put it in unveiling a major survey of consumer attitudes to digital fat fatigue, “It’s important to catch them when they’re looking up rather than looking down.”  

New Commercial Arts’ James Murphy, presenting on creativity, showed conclusively how even one striking poster could resonate with thousands of people via social media.

“Out of Home,” he concluded, “is the most human advertising medium.”