Timing is Everything

Buying media space is a complicated business. Each medium has its own market dynamics, which can be incomprehensibly different, not helped by seasonal variations and an ever-changing economic climate.

Without some knowledge of the basics, it can be difficult to achieve the best value for your marketing budget.

Bubble was born from a desire to simplify the buying process of outdoor advertising and make it accessible to businesses of all sizes. The bedrock of this is our intuitive website, which displays prices and availability for individual panels, all over the country.

With outdoor media, more so than for most other advertising, buying well enough in advance is the key factor. Outdoor advertising sites are a finite resource – each panel can only be sold to one advertiser for each time slot. Unlike the pages of a magazine, it is not possible to create more space for that specific audience at that specific point in time. This makes it important to understand how the market works, to ensure you get the best locations to fit your requirements.

So how does the outdoor advertising market work?
The majority of outdoor advertising panels across the UK are sold in packages with specific labels or ‘tags’ depending on the locations of the panels. Examples include FMCG (near supermarkets and grocery stores), School Run (proximity to schools), and DriveBuy (near or within petrol station forecourts). There are also ‘cover packs’ which are distributed geographically to provide maximum coverage of an area’s population.

Terminology aside, all this means for the smaller business is that huge chunks of inventory can disappear when just one or two large advertisers commit their media budget. This becomes a problem if you require a specific panel. You know that billboard down the road, just outside your main competitor, facing traffic and pedestrians headed in your direction? Your best chance of securing it, when you want it, is to plan well ahead of the crowd.


When looking at buying individual panels through Bubble, as a general rule the market tends to work 2-3 months in advance. This means that during the month of March, availability in June starts to disappear in earnest. Exceptions to this include annual peak periods such as Easter and Christmas, and less frequent events such as General Elections and sporting events (RWC 2015, for example).

As a side note, sometimes no amount of forward planning will help. A handful of large companies invest in what is known as a long term holding. Sky TV for example buy a number of billboards across the country, specially selected and booked long term (usually annually). These are used to inform the public of their latest shows and usually face outbound city traffic heading home. Another example would be McDonald’s who use billboards, bus shelters and phone boxes to direct footfall to their nearest restaurant. And it’s not just large advertisers who use this tactic – there are a number of smaller advertisers around the country employing a long-term strategy, using sites that make the most sense for their business. The bottom line is, if you have your sights set on a poster site you see day in, day out displaying the same advertiser, chances are you won’t be getting your hands on it anytime soon!

In reality, the total number of outdoor advertising panels taken out of the market by this type of activity is relatively small, but it does mean that some panels may be sold prior to the usual 2-3 month lead time.

So to sum up, timing is everything. The further in advance you can plan, the better your chances of securing the billboard, bus shelter or phone box of your dreams!

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