Roy Jeans of Rapport: how posters progressed from a static medium to a digital future

The out of home market has seen some radical changes as well as strong growth in recent years. Roy Jeans, CEO of leading UK OOH specialist agency Rapport, explains how and why the industry is changing.

Last year IPM (International Poster Management) rebranded as Rapport with the slogan “Rewarding Connections”. Why did you choose to rebrand and what do you mean by “Rewarding Connections”?

We had discussed internally for some time the way that the OOH market had been changing, from essentially a static medium to one that was rapidly embracing the digital world, with all that this implied about movement and interactivity. We were also seeing a change in the way that OOH was driving new levels of advertiser interest.

We had commissioned some research about how we were perceived as a company in the marketplace overall, and the message that was coming back was that we were seen as dynamic, friendly, innovative and accessible, so we decided to try and find a new name and positioning that reflected both the changes going on in the outdoor arena, as well as our own perceived role within it.

We actually agreed the strapline ‘Rewarding Connections’ before we found the new company name. Rewarding Connections is all about how we connect consumers with clients through the outdoor medium. It’s also about how the connections should be measurable too. It has multiple meanings that explain very clearly what we do, and what the outdoor landscape is all about. It is at the heart of everything we produce, from the initial planning meetings to the delivery, and then the measurement of what we’ve done for our clients.

It then took us another three or four months to eventually find a name for the company that reflected how we felt about ourselves, and how we were seen externally. ‘Rapport’ is all about how we create those connections, and how we conduct ourselves both individually and corporately. We were at that point the third player in a market of three, so we had to be seen to be trying harder, asking more questions, and having what we saw as a clear point of difference.

In the UK out of home market Rapport was the third force behind WPP’s Kinetic and Aegis-owned Posterscope. Now you have Eric Newnham’s Talon on the scene with its Omnicom out of home business. How do you plan to grow despite the increased competition?

Having another specialist competitor makes life a bit tougher of course, but we think having a fourth player in the market is a good thing. Too many clients allow their “main” media agency to package up their outdoor planning and buying as part of the overall media offer, and we think that clients that look at their outdoor product with the same discipline that they employ with their TV and online output for example will ultimately achieve greater value. The outdoor market is in a state of flux currently – digitisation being core to this – and clients need to be guided through this maze of opportunities by people with a real passion for the medium.

The more that clients demand that the outdoor medium is given the resource and focus that it deserves, the better we will do as a company. Our strategy is simply to engage with the bigger OOH spenders and show them what we’ve achieved for our current clients. This is the most exciting time for 20 years to be in the OOH space and we are ready to deliver for the advertisers that recognise this. We have a fabulous track record across planning, research and delivery, so we have a great story to tell.

‘Transparency’ has long been an issue in out of home with clients unsure about what commissions are paid and specialist agencies sometimes trading on their own account. Where does Rapport stand on transparency?

All our clients are very clear about the entire OOH revenue trail – from commissions through to any rebates that are generated. I think this may have been an industry issue ten years ago, but from our perspective every penny is accounted for from beginning to end. We welcome complete transparency and have found that this approach makes our clients doubly supportive of us.

Rapport has three major media agency partners – IPG’s Initiative and Universal, and Cheil Worldwide (chiefly Samsung). Do you work in the same way with each of them? Where do independent clients sit in the picture?

The key to getting the best OOH output for our clients is for us at Rapport to be involved in the overall media planning process as early as possible. In all three agency cases this happens as a matter of course, so there is frankly little difference as to how we work across them. I’d also add in a fourth agency – WPP’s Mediacom – who handle Sky’s media output bar the outdoor.

We have a direct outdoor contract with Sky, and we attend all the key agency briefings with Mediacom so that we know the bigger media picture at all times. At first it was a bit strange for both of us, but we now work hand in glove with them. At the moment we have great relationships with all four agencies. A large chunk of our business is with directly contracted agencies or clients, so we are used to being the only ‘unaligned’ agency in the room in a lot of these meetings.

How will the new Route research change the OOH business in the UK? Is it the full answer?

Route will demonstrate the enhanced value of outdoor in this new dynamic media landscape. We think that outdoor is currently evolving into three distinct threads – ‘destination’ sites like the IMAX at Waterloo in London (left) which make a bold statement about a client’s intent but with a little less concern for the ultimate audience numbers ; digital sites which allow for interaction or data delivery and capture; and straight-forward campaigns relying on quick cover and frequency build – normally across 6 sheets or 48 sheets.

In pretty quick time we will shift as an industry from measuring panels to measuring audiences – Route allows us to do this and so much more. It will enable agency planners to drill down to very delivery precise levels, and for much better targeted campaigns to be constructed.

We have also commissioned our own additional research designed to enhance Route – which we’ll be announcing soon. Route is a very important – and hugely detailed – change for the outdoor marketplace, and we will start to see the benefits over the next few months as we collectively absorb it as an industry.

Not that long ago out of home agencies were poster agencies; now there seems to be a land grab going on with experiential marketing and, especially, mobile in the equation. What’s the rationale for this? Are out of home specialists really the best partners for mobile marketers?

This isn’t really surprising given that outdoor is driving a key strand of advertisers’ data delivery and collection. It is imperative that we as outdoor specialists stay on top of this area, otherwise the opportunities we see through NFC and blippar for example will be grabbed by other data-focused companies.

The new combination of the Route research and real time data analysis (proximity downloads or effective calls to action) are going to make outdoor so much more accountable, and therefore measurable. It is precisley what ‘Rewarding Connections’ is all about!

What plans do IPG have to roll out Rapport globally? Where are you planning to open and when? And why is OOH now a global, as opposed to local or regional, business? How much do global advertisers actually spend?

It’s clear that clients are increasingly looking for more guidance on outdoor – everywhere around the world. In almost every market outdoor is becoming more important and growing – in ‘developed’ markets it’s the growth of digital and enhanced media owner investment and in other countries, as they urbanise, advertisers can reach them more efficiently, and centrally, through the outdoor medium. We obviously can’t comment on our own plans, but as you’d expect with a group and resources the size of IPG, it’s something that has accelerated up the agenda.

What’s your favourite poster ad?

My favourite poster ad is Saatchi’s ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ from the 1979 election for the Conservatives. It is of course very appropriate given the news this week about Mrs Thatcher, who won the first of her three election victories then with this ad as a key backdrop. It summed up very nicely for those of those who grew up in the 1970s what it had been like, and did it with a brilliantly simple slogan and image.

Irrespective of your political allegiance, it was a breakthrough ad for both the Conservatives and for Saatchis. No UK political ads have come close to touching it in the following 34 years.

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