“This text was first published on 26 February 2019.
In Berlin, the lithograph columns are currently disappearing from the cityscape. 2500 partly historical poster carriers are torn from the ground like dead tree stumps. “The state of Berlin has committed us to completely dismantle our pillars,” reports the outdoor advertising company Wall. But the holes in sidewalks and parks don’t last long. The Senate administration has long since granted building permits for new lithograph columns.
The background to the action is not the abolition of one of the oldest advertising media in public space, but simply the re-advertising of outdoor advertising in the capital. And the terms of the contract stipulate an exchange of the partially asbestos-contaminated columns of eternite and concrete. Anyway, where it makes sense. And that’s still a lot of locations.
Named after the printer Ernst Litfaß
The Annonciersäule, named after the Berlin printer Ernst Litfaß, is still justified 164 years after its premiere in the capital. Finally, even much more than 20 or 30 years ago.
Because outdoor advertising is currently experiencing a boom in Germany. This is shown by studies and figures on the “Out of home” market (OOH), as the advertising form with billboards or digital city light boards is now called New German. “OOH is the only traditional media segment that has seen steady growth in advertising revenue,” says the industry report by market researchers Magna and Rapport. According to this, revenues worldwide grew by an average of 4.1 percent per year between 2010 and 2018, while in Germany it was just over five percent.
According to the analysis, the market share of outdoor advertising has thus risen to ten percent, at least as far as the traditional media is concerned. Added to this, the digital business is a stable six percent. The relevance of OOH is increasing, confirms Uwe Storch, who as media chief of Nutella producer Ferrero has one of the largest gross advertising budgets in this country. At the German Media Congress, he recently revealed that Ferrero is now investing a large part of its expenditure in outdoor advertising.
But the big technology companies are also betting on OOH. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Netflix, for example, are among the top ten outdoor advertisers in many of the 70 markets surveyed, according to Magna and Rapport.
There are several reasons for the boom of OOH. Social changes, for example. “Consumers are increasingly mobile,” says Karin Winter, who is responsible for marketing at the Association of Outdoor Advertising (FAW). “Research shows that 90 percent of people are out and about for longer.” So the media usage behavior has changed accordingly.
Litfaßsäulen Kulturgut in Berlin
“In the age of smartphones and tablets, people don’t sit in front of the computer or THE TV for so long,” Winter says. And in fact, for example, the TV viewing time of people under 30 has fallen by a staggering 20 percent in five years. This inevitably leads to changes in the structure of the market, according to the industry. “If you want to advertise, you have to go where people are: in public spaces.”
And the choice is wide: Almost 300,000 poster media are available to advertisers in Germany, reports the FAW, be it large areas on the roadside, posters at bus stops or even the Lithfaßsäule, which is a cultural asset, especially in Berlin. In any case, it is estimated that nowhere else in Europe are there as many lithograph columns as in the German capital – namely 3000.
While the pronouncements have changed considerably over the decades: once they shared mobilizations, delivered war-depes or called for revolutions and elections, today it is above all cultural professionals who use the round adhesive medium, especially concert organizers, clubs and theatres. Because it can’t be cheaper: In the capital, the A1 format costs one euro per day and column, according to the industry.
However, increasing mobility is not the only reason for the boom in outdoor advertising. Digitization is also a major driver. “Digital innovations increase the performance and attractiveness of OOH,” write Magna un market researchers d Rapport in their analysis. This refers to digital posters that can be switched precisely and in real time.
Static motives to avoid distracting motorists
Early in the morning, when commuters and students are on the move, there are other motifs on the billboards than at noon at the time of the shopping of pensioners and young mothers, or in the evening when the night owls roam the streets. “Outdoor advertising can also be targeted precisely,” says FAW expert Winter.
Sales of digital outdoor advertising spaces are therefore rising far above average. Magna and Rapport’s OOH report talks of 16 percent annual growth since 2014 – to nearly six billion dollars globally. This means that 18 percent of out-of-home spending is already digital. The number of screens has almost doubled to around 300,000. According to FAW data, there are almost 1,200 digital poster or large format areas in Germany, especially in the major cities.
However, they are only used with static motifs – so as not to distract motorists and cyclists. In train stations, airports and shopping centres, on the other hand, films flicker about the so-called info screens. Their number is now already at a multiple of the digital city light boards. According to industry giant Ströer alone, it has about 5,000 units nationwide.
Ströer is therefore one of the big winners of the current development. According to preliminary figures, the Cologne-based company, which specialises in outdoor advertising, was able to increase its sales by almost a quarter to 1.6 billion euros in 2018. Although some of this growth is accounted for by acquisitions, the organic rate of increase is still close to ten percent.
Number of litter columns in Berlin expected to rise again
The bottom line for the MDax Group was an operating result of EUR 543 million. This is also a new high for the company, which was founded in 1990, and today also includes the portal T-Online, the news site Watson.de, the gaming platform Giga and the statistics provider Statista. “For 25 quarters in a row, we are now able to present continuously improved financial indicators,” says CEO Udo Müller. And he expects further growth, at least in the next ten years.
Ströer has repositioned itself in recent years and is now focusing on digital advertising forms and so-called content media. “OOH plus” is what the Rhinelanders call this strategy. This refers to a reciprocal relationship between outdoor advertising and digital marketing. Ströer also brings news content from T-Online to its advertising space. Conversely, according to a spokesman, the company also sells offline poster space to marketers who used to travel digitally alone.
And the messages are seen, whether they are static or moving images. “Nobody stands in front of it and looks consciously and for a long time at the advertising space. However, individual videos are perceived as they walk through the station, as are posters at the bus stop,” the spokesman said. You cannot change the transmitter or activate an adblocker in these moments. “This, too, is the success of outdoor advertising.”
The most important customers are the retail trade, followed by the entertainment industry with, for example, cinemas and pay-TV providers, but also fast-food restaurants, beverage manufacturers, travel providers and technology companies. What seems paradoxical in the latter case is proof of the efficiency of OOH for Magna and Rapport.
The number of lithograph columns in Berlin is therefore expected to rise sharply again in the coming weeks. The exchange, which began in January, is expected to be completed by the middle of the year. Each location is subject to a performance audit, according to the ILG outdoor advertising service from Stuttgart, which won the Senate tender. But even if some are no longer used because they are now lying in backyards or overgrown. “Berlin still remains the city of the lithograph columns.”