South African brand managers have switched on to the high returns that outdoor offers, says Andrew Stevens, Director of Tractor Outdoor. The right billboard in the right place is one of the powerful ways of getting your message to your target market. Unfortunately, the positive aspects of outdoor are being drowned out by one or two outdoor companies breaking the rules and erecting billboards without permission. This is giving rise to exaggerated negative headlines, which is very frustrating for the rest of us.

When it comes to reaching audiences and delivering overall exposure, outdoor media is the best option after TV and in-store advertising, beating not just Facebook but all other media. This is according to research conducted in South Africa by Kantar, the international data company. And for brand impact, Kantar’s global research shows that outdoor is the fourth most effective medium after TV, point of sale and Facebook, putting it ahead of other media like newspapers, magazines, radio and cinema.

Stevens says recent headlines are not a true reflection of the industry, and that the majority of outdoor companies stand firmly with municipalities and their bylaws. He says it is in the interest of good media owners to see the bylaws applied, and that they value effective regulation and the removal of non-compliant signage.

‘Tractor Outdoor has been in business for almost 20 years. We wouldn’t still be here if we didn’t obey municipal bylaws. I believe we know and understand the bylaws in every South African city and town just as well as the people who wrote them! Working with municipalities is one of the most important aspects of our business and I hope they will take us up on our sincere desire to work with them.’

Stevens says two processes would improve compliance:

1) No billboards should be erected without formal approval; and any that are should be removed immediately.

2) Every single board needs to be brought into the net for assessment by the local municipality. This includes boards that claim to have previous approval. There should be no exemptions, no technicalities and no reliance on legacy.

Stevens says that the City of Johannesburg has recently asked media owners to supply information on all their billboards. ‘As far as we – and most other honest brokers – are concerned, the city has our full support in assessing the existing signage. We know that not every billboard submitted in this process will maintain its prior approval and we’re quite prepared for that, and for whatever it takes to bring the industry in line.’