(Credit: Provantage Media Group, Outdoor Network)
Many years ago, when many of the readers of this story were just a twinkle in the pool man’s eye, I used to marvel at the size of the Out of Home sales representatives who used to visit our agency! There were guys named Jeremy, Gerhard, Pete, Alan, Ken, Max and Barry, all over 6ft in height and most quite burly. There were also some interesting fellas with names such as “Carps”, “Basil” and “Tiff” and a lady named Christy who was blonde, beautiful and a gladiator. There were others too, perhaps not as imposing physically but no less impactful, like fellows named Pieter, Basil and Dave. And ladies named Adelaide, Lyn, Debbie and Dawn. These legends had huge personalities and presence! They used to wear jeans and boots, not unlike cowboys, and stride into the agency with purpose and authority!
Like the cowboys in the old wild West, they were pioneers of their trade. They used rudimentary selling techniques like long lazy lunches and holidays in Hibberdene. They would take you out to visit taxi ranks and shebeens and field trips to places named Butterworth, Jagersfontein and Brakpan. Occasionally they would throw an old unsold inventory billboard at you to test a campaign. Motor vehicle manufacturers advertised on their billboards and strip clubs. I will never forget the Wonderbra launch campaign! Aaaah, those were the days!
Then things changed. People in the Media Industry started worrying about things like accountability and measurement for Outdoor! They were interested in things like council rights, traffic counts and billboard clutter. Some even expected post campaign reports and flighting verifications! They stopped leaving their desks to go on lunches and road trips. Christy left the Industry!
In 2009 when that wily old roosting pigeon, Gordon Muller, and I conceptualised the “Media Owner Sales Team” Awards, now commonly known as the MOST Awards, we worried that the Out of Home category would be severely punished. We feared that the pigeons would come home to roost and that Out of Home media owners would fall short of media sales service delivery expectations and standards. In the inaugural MOST Awards survey in 2009, there were 18 media owner sales teams listed in the Out of Home category (interestingly, there were 37 OOH companies listed in the 2023 Survey). We expected a blood bath!
But we needn’t have worried. The Out of Home cowboys had it covered and true to form, rose to the challenge! The MOST Awards showed us that Out of Home was doing exceptionally well, and delivering excellent levels of service, thank you very much! The winner of the MOST Award for the best media owner sales team in the Out of Home category that year was INM Outdoor, with the 2nd and third rankings going to ProVantage and ComutaNet respectively. In the same year, another accolade was bestowed on the Out of Home category the coveted “Media Owner Sales Legend Award” was awarded to doyen of the Media Industry, Ken Varejes! It’s fair to say that the Out of Home category did not just do well in the MOST Awards in 2009. They dominated it!
In the years that followed, the Out of Home category featured significantly in the MOST Awards Survey. In 2010, ProVantage’s Jacques Du Preez, was recognised as the “Media Owner Rising Star”. He repeated this achievement in the following three years (2011-2013) until the MOST Awards authorities put a stop to repeat winners! Out of the 12 years that this award has been made, an Out of Home media owner has won it on 7 occasions, with Brett Tucker (2015), Darren McKinnon (2017), and Mike van Tonder (2018) the recipients. Similarly, the “Media Owner Legend” Award has been bestowed upon three people from the Out of Home category – Ken Varejes (2009), Adelaide McKelvey (2014) and Barry Sayer (2016).
The media owners listed in the Out of Home category have always competed hard in the annual MOST Awards survey. Always one of the biggest categories in terms of the number of media owner teams listed, the table below shows the top three ranked teams since 2009:
The Out of Home category has performed very well in the overall MOST Awards media owner rankings too, with ProVantage achieving the “best of the best” accolade in 2012 and Massiv. Media doing the same in 2017. The table below shows the rankings of the top Out of Home media owner in the overall Media Owner rankings since 2009:
Looking at all of this information in context must surely give one a sense of comfort that Out of Home media in South Africa is alive, well and dare I say, thriving! Innovation and technology have continued to play significant roles in maintaining the channel’s relevance as new entrants have brought in new ideas. While there might still be the occasional “shootout at the high corral”, I would say that the old wild wild Outdoor West has truly been won!
Brad is a Researcher, Media Strategist and Marketer. He has worked at Media Agencies, Media Owners (including OOH) and Market Research houses, founding Freshly Ground Insights in 2007. His company has conducted the annual MOST Awards Survey since 2009. Brad has 30 years of Media experience, has earned some academic credentials and learned many life’s lessons. He likes to go fishing, drink beer and watch rugby. Chicks dig him.