Six months ago, Aoibhín Lennon, became director of the Outdoor Media Association (OMA), the representative group of five big out-of-home advertisers.

An important player in the Irish advertising industry, its members Clear Channel, Global, JCDecaux, PML Group, and Talon. Combined, they influence what we see each day in public spaces – from a billboard on the side of a building to digital signage in a shopping centre,, and from the side of a bus stop to the exterior or interior of public transport. 

It is a powerful medium with about 2.4 million people seeing outdoor advertising in the previous week, according to 2017 research. But it is also a sector that came under fierce pressure during the pandemic as travel shut down and movement was restricted.

Lennon takes over the OMA at an interesting time. It is back growing and preparing to conduct new research into the power of the sector.  

Digging into the data

Lennon was previously business director with Spark Foundry, a media planning and buying agency that is part of Core, Ireland’s largest marketing communications company. Lennon spent a decade with Spark Foundry, after previously working in Australia for seven years with MediaCom, ZenithOptimedia and Vizeum. 

This range of agency experience gives her insight into what customers of OMA members are looking for. Lennon is passionate about her new role representing a market worth over €100 million a year.

One of her first tasks, she said, was overseeing new research into the sector by the Joint National Outdoor Research (JNOR). The research is being conducted by Ipsos, a global leader in market research. 

The JNOR is funded by the members of the OMA and the new research will provide new audience data for outdoor campaigns for the first time since before the pandemic. 

Lennon said Ian McShane, the former managing director of market research firm B&A, has been appointed as non-executive chair of the JNOR to oversee this project. “Ian has a wealth of experience,” Lennon said. “He’s just dug into the project and is making a difference with his background in research.” 

The goal of the new work is to deliver a new all-island ‘Ireland Outdoor Media Advertising’ measurement system.

“The overall objective of the project conducted by Ipsos is to create an audience measurement currency for advertising in public spaces whether that is static, moving or digital in Ireland that is robust, reliable, and transparent,” Lennon said. 

A new travel survey of a nationally representative sample of 3,000 people is being carried out.  “A travel survey lies at the heart of a people-centred measurement approach to ensure the metrics accurately reflect audience geo-demographics and reach and frequency,” Lennon said. This will allow the advertising industry to better analyse out-of-home campaign performance including digital advertising across target audiences, locations and formats.

Aoibhín Lennon: “Research is currency.”

“It’ll be brand new, a new system, a new interface. It will include digital, the previous system didn’t include digital, so this will include digital screens as well as obviously incorporate retail, shopping malls, car parks, trams, rail, all of that,” she said.

Traditionally, the OMA and JNOR have been separate legal entities but Lennon said the plan was to merge the two companies formally. Accountants Amergin and law firm Flynn O’Driscoll working on the this process. 

A voice for the industry

Out-of-home advertising was one of the worst impacted sectors during the pandemic, but Aoibhín Lennon said the sector was now back in growth mode. She said Core’s Predict 24 Report, published in February, showed that 69 per cent of adults planned to spend more time outdoors this year, and 62 per cent plan intended to spend time with people outside their place of work or home. 

According to Lennon, digital is becoming increasingly important. “OMA members in Ireland are increasingly adopting digital signage and interactive technologies to enhance the impact and flexibility of outdoor advertising,” she said.

“Digital billboards, interactive displays, and dynamic content capabilities allow for more targeted messaging, real-time updates, and creative flexibility, making outdoor ads even more engaging and relevant to audiences.”

Aoibhín Lennon: The industry needs “one voice.”

Sustainability was also a focus for the industry. Printing formats use Forest Stewardship Council-accredited papers, and digital advertising powered down for four hours at night. “Paper posters are recycled after use,” she said. “Bus vinyl is converted to solid recoverable fuel and used in cement manufacturing. Most OOH (out of home) displays are now illuminated with LED lighting.” 

The OMA saw its role, she said, as being “one voice” for the industry in telling its story to advertisers and other stakeholders. “The power of being out of home comes, I believe, from attention and trust. It is a trusted medium, and there is a power in good creative that everyone can see.”

“The reason I got involved is I love the medium,” she added. “People are out of home more, so they’re seeing more out-of-home advertising. It is a really trusted format.”