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Julie Descamps 2023-11-15

Today's guest on Behind the Bylines is Karin Winter. She's one of the guiding forces behind OOH! Magazin, Germany's leading source for insights into outdoor advertising trends and developments. Karin shares a bit of her  journey into the advertising world, sheds light on the evolving landscape of outdoor media, and offers intriguing perspectives on the industry. Dive into our conversation to discover more...

What inspired you to become a journalist and how did you get into the profession?

I grew up in a household with two daily newspapers. That surely had some influence. And as my father was a teacher - a certain tendency for lecturing and explaining was probably inserted from the beginning too. At school, language was always my favourite subject, and at the age of 15 or 16 the idea formed that it could be at the center of my future working life. Until today I find it fascinating how the mood and appeal in a text can change simply through the choice of words. Also, I consider information and communication the most important key to a free and enlightened society no matter which sector you look into. Contributing even a very small share to this state of society was and is a major drive for me :) 

With my high school diploma I attended university to study nutritional sciences (yes, indeed – not an obvious choice of subject, but it would be too difficult to go into detail here) and have afterwards undertaken a journalistic training at a specialist publishing house in Frankfurt. There I also got a closer look at the advertising industry for the first time as I became editor for their publication “Horizont” which today is the leading trade newspaper in that field.

In contrast to all other media, OOH advertising is absolutely democratic and barrier-free: You don’t need money or any devices to receive it

What’s your role at OOH! Magazin - and what are the latest developments there?

Since 2015, I have been editor-in-chief at OOH! Magazin, a quarterly that focuses on Out of Home (Outdoor) Advertising and is spread throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland, mainly addressing the advertising industry in these countries. I draft the contents of every issue and coordinate the work of our freelance journalists, apart from writing articles myself. As for latest developments, we will take a big step by the beginning of next year and focus on “digital only”. This year’s OOH! Issue no 4 will be the last one that is published in a printed version as well as an e-paper. From 2024 on we will fully concentrate on issuing a digital magazine.

In some countries, governments have tried to limit outdoor advertising as they consider it a form of visual pollution. What do you think of that policy?

As all advertising Outdoor advertising is a form of public information and an important channel of communication, not only for the advertising industry. Governments themselves, as well as public institutions or NGOs, make constant use of OOH advertising as they are well aware of its benefits. In contrast to all other media, OOH advertising is absolutely democratic and barrier-free: You don’t need money or any devices to receive it. It reaches out to the public and therefore to anyone who is out in public space. Moreover, governments who wish to limit outdoor advertising deprive the public of an important source of income. A recent study done by PwC in Switzerland shows that 60 % of the revenue made by OOH companies is directly or indirectly returned to the public hand. It contributes to financing public transport, public pools and a lot more tasks of public administration. Last but not least: As said above I strongly believe in the freedom of information and communication.  

As a member of the Epica Awards jury, how do you approach evaluating and selecting the best creative work from around the world?

One of the biggest special awards in Germany is PlakaDiva, designed to showcase the best Out Of Home advertising. As I have attended and moderated jury sessions there for many years, I have had the chance to learn a lot from the jury members and about the way they approach creative work, both as creative and as media people. Their principles are very similar to the guidelines given for the Epica jury – they always look for the quality of the idea and for the quality of the execution. To them creative work is not so much an art but a craftsmanship that follows distinct rules. It must be convincing in every respect to fulfil the idea as a whole. 

What are the most memorable campaigns or creative projects you've covered and what made them stand out for you?

In general outstanding creative work is developed from the core of a brand thus making the brand unique with utmost credibility. In short, it is a perfect fit. My favourite example is a legendary campaign for the launch of the Audi Quattro in 1988 (yes, automotive despite what I said before). They let the car drive up a ski jump and simply added their slogan “Vorsprung durch Technik” (advancement through technology). Without even thinking everyone knew what the brand was about – ultimate power, ultimate safety. That was ingenious – and has been honoured with lots of awards.

I consider information and communication the most important key to a free and enlightened society no matter which sector you look into.

How has OOH advertising evolved in recent years?

OOH advertising has shown remarkable resilience over the last decades and grown steadily both in revenues and market share, not only in Germany but worldwide. This is due to three major developments: a change in media usage, a significant rise in public mobility and the digital transformation of the medium itself. First: We have seen a massive change in media usage in these last 20 years – many activities that once were bound in home have been transferred to out of home, thanks to digital devices such as tablets and mobile / cell phones. The more independent people have become in doing phone-calls, banking, shopping, watching TV or videos and so on, the more time they spend outdoors, in public space, where they will inevitably meet OOH advertising. 

Various studies prove that the rate of mobility in the population has constantly increased. Therefore OOH advertising is preferred by more and more marketers who wish to reach out to the biggest possible audience. Second: OOH advertising has managed its digital transformation successfully. Digital Out of Home (DOOH) is the key driver of further development. It offers speed and flexibility thus making the last existing true mass medium even more attractive for marketers. It also allows to address target groups most efficiently as you can select the time and place of your ad on the spot. To give you a short impression by numbers: For many years – until the 1990s - OOH advertising in Germany has stuck with a market share of appr. 2 % - today it is at 9 %, heading for a double digit number. Considering the hard competition in the media market this is quite impressive.

Germany is known for its large and influential automotive industry. How creative are the country’s auto brands in the outdoor sector?

Let me put it that way: There is a lot of room for improvement. Not only in the outdoor sector but in all other media sectors as well. Apart from very few exceptions the creative work in automotive advertising produces stereotypes and fails to find that specific momentum that makes a brand memorable.

What’s the biggest challenge facing the creative industry today – and how might it be addressed?

The increasing skills of Artificial Intelligence and the question how to make best use of them are a very big challenge, not only for the creative industry. Without doubt AI has its benefits, yet there are dangers as well. Most troubling is the lack of authenticity, that we can hardly identify fakes anymore. Unfortunately I think that things have already come far too far to be addressed effectively.

What role do you see journalism playing in promoting and advocating for diversity and inclusion within the creative industry?

I do not see promoting and advocating as a task for journalism. Journalism to me is about finding out, describing, explaining, on a somewhat neutral basis. We are observers, not actors. Diversity and inclusion are the outcome of developments within society, and if there is a content-related point, a reason for making them a subject of our journalistic work we shall of course do so.

Who are your role models or mentors in journalism and the creative world? And what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?

My sole role model in journalism is the late Wolf Schneider who has been teaching and training young journalists in the proper use of language. Apart from that I do not have any role models, although of course I do have likes and dislikes. Funny enough, I have never been given any career advice. Maybe I have always met the wrong people.

Funny enough, I have never been given any career advice. Maybe I have always met the wrong people.

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