British weather is anything but predictable, but one company says it's gambling on a repeat of last year's summer sizzler. Lindsay McClintock reports The Silly Season spells doom and gloom for most media companies, as marketers take time out from the hustle and bustle of pitching to consumers and spending their hard-earned cash on snazzy ads. But now Mills & Allen has introduced a heat-seeking sales package to encourage advertisers to use posters during the summer break. "The heat is on to raise sales in August," quipped commercial director David Pugh. "It's a very slack period for all media." But he believes that the summertime can be an opportunity for outdoor businesses to play their trump cards. "At that time of year outdoor benefits because it's actually a time of maximum daylight and people are spending more time outside. So we're promoting August as a good month for media value." The outdoor specialist is offering an advertising package using a price formula based on the weather, which the company has divided into three broad temperature bands. If it's hotter, advertisers pay more, and if it's colder than predicted, advertisers will make a saving. For a national one week campaign of 1,500 48-sheets the deal translates into a maximum cost of #172,500, and a minimum of #127,500 by rate card, representing a saving on "normal prices" of nearly a quarter. Advertisers can also weight their campaign according to the temperature of the local area (London, Manchester or Glasgow) which is the most important region in relation to their sales. Pugh commented: "We're offering a gamble - if the weather's better than predicted the prices will be up, but advertisers will sell more as a result. If it's colder, then we suffer." And he added: "We're hoping for a repeat of last year." The firm looked at 10 years of weather research with the London Weather Centre and used the average temperatures in London, Glasgow and Manchester to predict what this year's summer will be like. And the good news is that Mills & Allen is planning for a summer sizzler. Key categories, like ice cream and beer, are being targeted for action although others - such as air conditioning systems for cars - have also shown interest since the deal was announced last month. "Obvious opportunities exist for ice creams and soft drinks but the weather is going to affect sales of anything that people reach for when it's hot." Pugh believes that the move is a chance for posters to make their mark. He said: "We've stolen the idea from radio where an ad only runs if the temperature reaches a certain level. We can't do that, but we can vary costs." Last year, even TV was going for extra summer sales as ITV sales house TSMS launched its "sunshine package". Its success during the peak summer months was soon followed by a cold weather package. But it remains to be seen whether posters will be able to compete with the broadcast media. Other outdoor agencies are keeping an eye on the results. Rival firm Maiden has no plans to launch a similar scheme as yet, although a spokesperson said that it is eagerly awaiting the outcome. Meanwhile, another competitor More O'Farrell Adshel says it is looking at various opportunities for the summer. Mills & Allen's summer scheme is just one way that outdoor is hitting back at its media rivals TV and radio. Another is causing an upheaval in outdoor research and planning. A new ratings scheme, called Postar, was launched in April and replaces Oscar as a means of accurately measuring the effectiveness of a campaign. Clare Dove, client sales manager at M&A, explained: "Postar now allows outdoor to be bought by audience. That way we can have a direct comparison of how effective a campaign is to TV and radio. Clients will be able to see the impact of the ads." So while summer may be the silly season for most, the poster people are now looking forward to serious sales.