In Situ Media
Raising the game of the UK's No 1 sport & leisure media specialist.
rejuvenated the company's brand image, billboard network, sales and service operations
dramatically improved relations with key customers at the UK's largest specialist outdoor media buying agencies
smashed sales and profit targets immediately after the Q1 2011 relaunch with revenue rising by 1200% in Q2, and improving by a further 154% in Q3
delivered a 9% increase in annual revenue in 2011, with a further increase of 22% in 2012
positioned the business for continued growth in a recovering outdoor media market
At the end 2010, the UK’s largest leisure centre media contractor needed to modernise quickly if we were going to re-ignite growth in the business.
Within 2 years, a new customer-inspired marketing strategy had:
I joined In Situ Media at the end of 2010, with a brief to create and implement a new marketing strategy designed to reverse a steep decline in sales which had shrunk the company's annual revenue to just a third of what it had been only 3 years earlier.
The UK's outdoor media market was emerging from a deep recession which had hit In Situ's leisure centre advertising operation hard, and the company was now facing challenges on multiple fronts.
Out in the market, competition for media budgets was intense as advertisers, who had cut back on spending during the recession, were now diverting expenditure towards online media and sexy new digital outdoor formats like new digital billboards in shopping centres and at busy transport hubs.
Internally, In Situ's management had adopted a strategy of cost minimisation during the recessionary period, which mean't they hadn't invested in their billboards, sales operations or client services for more than 3 years, and experts in the billboards market could visibly see the evidence of this strategy.
If we were going to return leisure centre advertising to growth, we needed to modernise the company’s offering to meet the needs of Britain’s biggest advertisers much more closely.
Photography by Guy SP
Raising the game
To understand customers’ perceptions of In Situ and their leisure centre media proposition in detail, I asked senior planners and buyers from large outdoor specialist agencies who knew the business well - people who are responsible for around 80% of all client expenditure in outdoor media - to participate in a process I call Reality Digs. These customers told me that leisure centre media presented specific problems for advertisers, including:
a visibly ageing billboard network
difficulty understanding which sites offered genuine impact and dwell-time to advertisers
an old-fashioned method of posting adverts with associated concerns around accountability
lack of investment in media self-bolstering activities like photos of client campaigns, independent campaign research, audience research data, and campaign case studies
poor sales and marketing presentations that hadn’t changed for years
a relatively weak team of sales representatives
When these insights were combined with desk research, I found an industry recovering from a deep recession and experiencing profound change in multiple disciplines including digitised ad formats, operations and service delivery capabilities which had driven quality attributes to impressively high levels, especially at the top of the industry.
I worked to build a consensus around a new strategy based on quality to revitalise the business. Together, we were confident a fresh, modern proposition would attract key customers back; after all, advertisers were still looking for places to intercept consumers to deliver commercial messages, and public leisure centres were still being visited frequently by millions of Brits every week.
Responding immediately to customer's concerns over the quality of the company’s billboard network, we initiated a full panel audit to quantify the scale and scope of problems across the network, and set a baseline for a billboard replacement programme.
The first billboards we replaced were in leisure centres around London, where media buyers were coming into direct contact with our network during their leisure time, and where we knew we could make improvements visible to folks in the company's key customer segment.
Customers had also expressed concerns around the company's billboard posting process - In Situ were sending posters by courier to be placed in panels by leisure centre staff, so there wasn't any hard evidence that campaigns were actually on display in the billboards that client's had booked and paid for.
To improve accountability in posting operations, we outsourced the process of posting all client ads to professional teams of regional contractors. We also mandated they provide time and date-stamped ‘proof-of-posting’ photos from each individual posting event. With each new campaign, the company would make physical contact with its billboard network, and receive images and reports about panels which operations could assess for signs of wear and tear, and take action where necessary.
Within 2 months, we’d received images of 80% of In Situ’s billboards, and were able to identify the billboards which urgently required repair or replacement.
With a revitalised billboard network in development, I started looking at opportunities to improve In Situ’s sales and marketing. Signalling the start of the quality improvement programme, we hired an experienced Media Sales Director to work with us on improving relations with key customers, and help us communicate the quality improvements being made by In Situ's sales, operations and marketing teams.
We created a new visual identity for the company too, quickly followed by a user-friendly website designed to meet the information needs of busy media planners and buyers. New product and service quality attributes featured prominently across the site, and downloadable documents minimised the time needed to find media data, which planners frequently require for circulation among a larger decision-making group.
Customers also told us that In Situ needed to do more to help client's assess the effectiveness of their campaigns, and prove that leisure centre media actually works in an integrated media mix. We responded by creating a Campaign Research Service which provided clients with key advertising performance metrics e.g. awareness, consideration, persuasion and intention to purchase before and after their campaign. To deliver an objective assessment of the performance of each clients’ campaign, we appointed an independent media research specialist to design and implement a robust research methodology.
Finally, we remodelled booking and operations systems with quality enhancements embedded into day-to-day activities. For example, responding to buyers concerns around transparency issues in our posting processes, our contractors were now providing verifiable proof that posters were actually in place, posted on the date and in the location they'd been booked for. We decided to create a password-protected microsite to give our clients and their customers all the posting information we were collecting about their campaigns which they could access online whenever they wanted from their own desk.
This system was called Verify, and the site featured access to all the time-stamped images from each posting event, showing each poster being displayed to spec and on time. We also presented professional photos of client's campaigns inside leisure centres, a 'Proof of Posting Certificate, and documents detailing consumer research we'd undertaken for a campaign.
Media Packs, Promotional Campaigns, Ads & Digital Communications
We saw a massive improvement in sales almost immediately after relaunching the new In Situ Media proposition. Quarterly sales lept by 1200% and, by year end 2011, sales were up 9% on the previous year. The following year delivered a further rise of 22% - the company had successfully turned the corner and was definitely back on the path to sales and profit growth once again.
By adopting a new strategy based on quality, we'd sent a strong signal to senior buyers at major outdoor media agency's that In Situ was responsive to their concerns and were fully committed to improving the performance of the business. We'd successfully articulated quality as a driving force behind decision-making at the company, delivered significant service improvements, and started winning big budget business once again from Britain’s biggest outdoor advertisers and their intermediaries.
More incremental service improvements yielded further dividends, and it was clear that the marketing plan had succeeded in modifying perceptions of leisure centre media, and boosted its appeal considerably. Buyer preference and recommendation behaviour were markedly improved, and harmonious relations restored between In Situ and the UK's largest outdoor media specialists.
The quality of the brands choosing leisure centre media for inclusion on their media plans had improved dramatically. Advertisers with a huge range of choice in their media selections were selecting our billboards once again to extend the reach of their national campaigns.
With hundreds of modern billboards introduced into In Situ's network, a broader range of packaged solutions, new campaign management services and a shiny new image, the quality narrative had successfully reversed the companies decline.
Towards the end of 2012, the owner of the business informed us of his decision to retire, and the now profitable business was acquired by a trade buyer in 2013 and continues to flourish to this day under new ownership.
Last updated: 2 Feb 2018
2011 v 2010
Increase in Av.