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Ironically, the ever expanding spectrum of communication channels available to advertisers and increasing market fragmentation are benefiting one of advertising’s oldest media: the outdoor board.

According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), the largest trade association representing the outdoor advertising industry and sponsor of the annual OBIE Awards, sales grew 5.2 percent in 2003 and 6 percent in 2004 for a total of $5.8 billion annually. Industry revenue for the first six months of 2005 was $3.2 billion, representing a 7 percent increase from January through June.

“The outdoor advertising industry continues its growth at a faster pace than originally projected,” said Stephen Freitas, chief marketing officer for the OAAA. “We believe the industry’s robust growth is due in large part to technological advances that have made the medium more attractive to advertisers looking for media channels unaffected by the rise of on-demand programming and content.”

“Outdoor advertising is about to undergo a renaissance in this country,” said Alex Bogusky, partner and creative director of Crispin Porter Bogusky, Miami, Florida, and 2005 OBIE chief judge. “With the changes taking place in the media landscape, outdoor is just about the only way advertisers can predict and deliver a mega audience. We aren’t all reading the same magazine anymore. We aren’t all watching the same television shows anymore. But we are all still taking the same roads, trains and buses. If you do an outdoor program that’s got some weight to it, you can be pretty certain that the people who went to work that morning probably all saw the same pieces of advertising. There’s the ability to create water-cooler talk. We think that outdoor is still a shared campfire.”

The growing appreciation for outdoor as a creative vehicle is not without controversy. The number of billboards has increased little in the past twenty years. There are about 450,000 billboards spread across the United States, mostly in or near urban areas. This doesn’t include street furniture (such as bus shelters), transit vehicles and other display methods. Part of this limited growth is due to increasing regulation beginning with The Highway Beautification Act of 1965. According to Scenic America, a national nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to preserving the country’s scenic character, hundreds of communities have banned billboards completely, as have Vermont, Hawaii, Alaska and Maine.

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The OAAA is dedicated to promoting, protecting and advancing outdoor advertising interests in the U.S., and a key component to OAAA’s mission is to create a positive legislative, regulatory and legal environment for outdoor advertising.

The 2005 awards judging took place on February 25, 2005, in Miami Beach. The team of judges reviewed close to 1,300 images over the course of one fast-paced day, culminating with the selection of OBIEs, Merits, Finalists and Best of Show awards.

In addition to Alex Bogusky, the jury consisted of Connie Garrido, senior partner and director of non-traditional media of MindShare USA, Inc., New York, New York; Noel Haan, senior vice president and executive creative director Leo Burnett Company, Chicago, Illinois; Mike Hughes, president and creative director of The Martin Agency, Richmond, Virginia; Joel Jáuregui, founder of the independent agency, Zonazero, Monterrey, México; Gary Koepke, co-founder and executive creative director of Modernista!, Boston, Massachusetts; and Mike Parsons, national creative director for Fairway Outdoor Advertising, Augusta, Georgia.

The winners were announced on Tuesday, May 24, 2005, as part of an evening gala on the closing night of the 2005 OAAA National Convention and Trade Show in Chicago.

The Best of Show winner showcases the qualities that make the outdoor industry strong: innovative work that highlights the enormous creative potential that outdoor can offer.” —Nancy Fletcher

Best of Show honors were awarded to Peterson Milla Hooks of Minneapolis, Minnesota, for its work with Target that featured a series of billboards from the Retail category. The billboards were designed to show creatively how consumer wants and needs can be met at Target.

“The Best of Show winner showcases the qualities that make the outdoor industry strong: innovative work that highlights the enormous creative potential that outdoor can offer,” said Nancy Fletcher, OAAA president and chief executive officer.

Outdoor’s newfound legitimacy as a creative vehicle wasn’t lost on the judges. “There were brands that thought outdoor wasn’t an appropriate place for them,” said Bogusky. “I don’t think you would have seen Target make a statement about themselves as experts in design using outdoor ten years ago, but now they are.”

“This is the decade for design,” said Mike Hughes. “A decade where design matters in products, in marketing and advertising. In outdoor, design is such a core element.”

Acknowledging that some of the best work comes from agencies, the OBIE Awards continued its outreach to advertising agencies by creating a new Call for Entries designed for creative directors, as well as a new OBIE logo, and two new product categories: Digital Display Media and Spanish Language. Over 70% of entries for the 2005 OBIE Awards came from agencies. “We are delighted with the response from the agency community. This year’s competition has attracted far more agency submissions and the quality of their work is outstanding,” Freitas said.

In addition to Best of Show, a total of 14 OBIEs were awarded in individual categories as well as 28 Merit and 74 Finalist certificates. While space limitations permit us to show only a sampling of the winners, the complete list of OBIE Winners, Merits and Finalists can be found at www.oaaa.org. ca

Patrick Coyne is the editor and designer of Communication Arts magazine, the largest international trade journal of visual communications. Coyne studied design at the California College of the Arts. Prior to joining Communication Arts in 1986, Coyne worked as a graphic designer for Michael Mabry and SBG Partners and then co-founded the San Francisco-based design firm Patrick Coyne/Stephanie Steyer Design Office. During his tenure as editor and designer of Communication Arts, Coyne has been a frequent speaker at numerous art directors and advertising clubs as well as local, national and international design conferences and has received medals and distinctive merits from AIGA, STA and Society of Illustrators. He is also a member of the AIGA and an honorary member of the Society of Typographic Arts and the University and College Designers Association.


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