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What MWC 2016 Means for Outdoor Advertisers: Nick Halas comments to MediaTel

Posterscope’s Nick Halas is back from Barcelona and says 2016 is going to be a transformative year for out-of-home.
Mobile World Congress (MWC) has evolved into one of the biggest consumer technology showcases in the world. Mobile technology is increasingly becoming part of everyday behaviours, greatly impacting how consumers engage with each other.
As mobile increasingly drives societal behaviour, it’s changing the way individuals interact with brands. Mobile is having a huge impact in advertising sectors – not least out-of-home (OOH) advertising.
This year’s MWC demonstrated a market readiness for technology which has been emerging over the last few years in prototype and early stage forms, including major developments for connected devices.
Major focus areas included wearables, home security and smart cities, alongside with proof of the evolution of not just connected cars, but also almost any connected device you can think of: including the ‘connected cow’ (a genuine agricultural innovation), as well as some which are equally innovative, if (in my opinion), somewhat creepy, like Sony’s Xperia Ear.
This tidal wave of change promises to be transformational for everyone involved in the OOH ecosystem, particularly for the digital OOH sector. Here are some key themes that I believe our industry needs to address following this year’s MWC:

  1. Alliances are powerful

Partnerships are one of those things that are very easy to discuss and propose, but much harder to actually turn into a real success. However, the tech giants and major consumer brands are clearly understanding that the need to come together and collaborate is more important than ever in creating positive change.
This was apparent throughout the show – for example, Lenovo and Google’s Project Tango – a next generation operating system and product set. Or Volvo and Ericsson’s connected vehicle, and in the luxury goods market Tag Heuer and Intel’s new smart watch. ‘Luxury brand plus tech giant’ is an equation we’ll see more of, certainly.
For the OOH industry, we’re already starting to reap the benefits of a more collaborative approach. In the US, the NYC Link project is a great demonstration of how OOH has redefined its principles by building in public utility, via free Wi-Fi for the entire NY population.
By looking outside its core, the OOH industry can deliver solutions that increasingly become part of consumer utility, engagement and connectivity, without losing the opportunity to engage with target audiences

  1. Connectivity, connectivity, connectivity

MWC is a barometer event. It shows us evolving trends, and provides an indication as to if and when certain trends are going to take off. Of everything on display at the Congress this year, it’s the continued evolution of IoT that probably holds the most for OOH advertisers.
These developments suggest OOH advertisers will be better able to interact and engage with people by using beacons, image recognition or device pairing. I expect to see this extend into CRM and payments, (witness Visa’s expansion of its Visa Ready Program), as well as into the automobile sector as both connected cells – the car and the poster site – will be able to communicate with each other.
In short, we’ll see far greater collaboration with digital and mobile campaigns, both as an extension network and as a platform for the delivery of dynamic personalised messaging, all of which will build on OOH’s ability to deliver fame and attention for brands.
In this regard, ‘mobile’ refers less to the handset, and instead to whichever device, or ‘thing’ within the Internet of Things that the consumer has with them.

  1. Audience insight

New levels of connectivity across a vast and expanding number of connected devices is set to act as a springboard for far deeper levels of consumer insight. For OOH advertisers, this has tremendous implications for both the targeting of campaigns and increasing the impact of messaging through the right contextual message being delivered at the right time, and in the right place.
From our own experience, we’re already seeing vastly improved processes through partnerships with EE, XAd and Locomizer. These provide an incredible new layer of understanding of micro-location data, which informs greater insights about the OOH consumer. Increasingly this insight will not just fuel the traditional OOH space, but will help in evaluating the experiential event space as well.
The increased application and adoption of small cell technology through population movement and audience segmentation data will provide significantly more robust research and evaluation systems into events. Additionally, CRM connectivity with mobile devices will enable OOH advertisers to begin to track and evaluate campaigns, and traffic attribution post-event.

  1. VR and events: a match made in technology heaven

Virtual Reality, (VR), is not new, and in fact we have already used it in several experiential campaigns. However, the move toward mass market adoption changes the game, and the renewed focus on VR built to a fever pitch at this year’s MWC, driven in no small part by the hardware announcements from major, global, technology superbrands.
Several new products were updated and launched early on, including HTC’s Vive and LG’s new VR headset.
Additionally, Samsung’s Gear 360 camera will capture VR videos, (although LG’s device boasts an incredible 70 hours of video recording, which will take some beating); but perhaps most significantly, Samsung announced its Gear VR headsets will be provided free with all pre orders of the S7 and S7 Edge handsets.
Facebook announced the creation of a VR team, dedicated to creating new ways for people to have social experiences in VR.
The mainstream drive means greater ability for technology to create immersive experiences for consumers, but we need to keep quality at the core. Any new technology is only ever as good as its weakest public solution, and if brands use VR badly, everyone risks getting stung.

  1. Infrastructure imbalance

It’s easy to read the road ahead as incredibly positive, but there is word of warning. Despite optimism at events like MWC, there’s an undercurrent of uncertainty. Technology is always a gamble, and several major tech giants have gone through tough times recently as investment wasn’t made at the right time.
In the coming years the OOH industry will face the same parallels. The increasing sophistication of existing technology and the birth of new platforms, along with increasing digital infrastructure and more connectivity will require major level investment.
We’re already seeing this investment from several of the bigger media owners – but as MWC’s evolution demonstrates, keeping pace with technological change can be a tough order to fill.
The world is on the cusp of some very exciting new technologies, which will have a tremendous transformative impact on the OOH industry – as seen at this year’s Congress. We need to be ready for change, and if we get it right the future for OOH looks very bright indeed.
Nick Halas is head of futures at Posterscope
This feature was first published in MediaTel 

Blog: The three ingredients of a winning agency

Michael Brown, managing director of psLIVE takes a look at what makes an award-winning agency: vision, values and diversity.
“And the winner of Brand Experience Agency of the Year is… psLIVE!”
My delight in hearing those words, coming to me as unexpectedly as they did, during Event’s newly-transformed Event Awards at the Hammersmith Apollo last month, also arrived as a moment of self-realisation: in that joyous and very public instant, I recognised in myself how so very badly I had wanted to hear them.
The psLIVE table erupted – a Vesuvius of skyward drinks, whoops, hugs, air punching and mile-wide grins suggesting that, like me, the rest of the team also desired to be similarly blessed as winners. We were a microcosm of the room – everyone wanted to win so very badly and as you would expect, quite a few others in the room did just that. Claire Stokes, founder of The Circle Agency, Chris Dawson founder of The Field, Phil Edelson, chief exectuive of Mash and Kate Woodcock, senior experiential consultant at Major Players, join me to take a look at the vital signs of a winning agency:
The C Bomb
The obvious tick boxes include factors such as having a strong leadership team and a clearly articulated vision. A marked year-on-year growth would also help to impress any judges, while a commitment to innovation and possessing a differentiated offer to your peers should combine to see the agency consistently doing great work for great clients. Who would think twice if you stopped right there and said those things were enough to win? For sure, I would claim all of these benchmarks for psLIVE, but to describe the single most important factor that underpins agency success I am going to have to drop the C bomb on you: culture.
Culture is a bullet. It ricochets around the corridors and meeting rooms of any organisation. Senior managers are so hot for culture it’s almost unseemly, but is it an apparition? Has the heat caused them to see a mirage in a desert where the only culture is in working long hours? Is it possible to make culture tangible? What are the base ingredients and how long do you put it in the oven for?
I am probably not alone in my belief that great culture starts with a vision. I tend to think of it as both a destination (not necessarily one I will arrive at) and a means of transport: it’s where an agency wants to be and how it will get there.
If the culture is the way in which the people within an organisation collectively act to achieve a vision, then the way they act also has to be defined within a set of values. It is no good being a winner if there is a trail of dead bodies all the way to the podium. At least not in a people-focussed industry like ours. Let’s face it, vision stands for zilch without a team to engage with it.
The people an agency selects to join its ranks should be recruited with vision and values to the fore, which is different to singularly focussing on ability and experience in a role. If, in the interview process, you are looking to see if a candidate stacks up favourably against your vision, then I would contend that you are ensuring the evolution of your culture is no happy accident. Your values are like clay on a potter’s wheel. Turn it on, roll up your sleeves and shape it into a culture shaped vase!
Phil Edelston, founder and chief executive of Mash, winners of Staffing Agency of the Year at the Event Awards has a similar outlook: “We look for identifiable qualities in all of the candidates who want to work with us. By being clear about what our values are, we feel we hire the right people who all buy into that ethos and help feed into a winning culture.”
However he goes on to confess to things not always being this way. “When we were smaller it felt like culture was something that the guys just got on the office floor, as they were working closely with me. In getting bigger we have realised how powerful an exercise it can be to identify and communicate company values and this is something we have now invested in.”
Guiding principles
Claire Stokes, founder and managing director of The Circle Agency, knows what it is to be an agency of the year. She has identified the guiding principles around which her agency is built and enshrines these in every company communication. This includes an internal annual awards system in which The Circle Agency team are celebrated for bringing the values to life within their work.”
“If you focus your teams efforts on their ability to deliver what really matters to the client, the awards naturally follow,” she said. “Over the years we have successfully developed a culture that thrives on innovation and creativity, but never, ever, at the expense of delivering the client objectives and this is inherent in our company values. We have six values but my personal favourites are: be bold and innovate, put clients objectives first and be accountable.”
Despite such ringing endorsement of the importance of values, Kate Woodcock, senior experiential consultant for top recruitment agency Major Players, confirmed that many agencies in our sector seldom brief her to recruit against agency values. “Not all agencies have their vision and values formally articulated. Many clients will brief us on the key functions of the job only,” she said.
Kate has a clever way of getting around this: “I will ask my client to describe the culture in their own words to tease out what their business is really like. This helps factor in cultural fit when looking for a person for the role. My end goal is not to just find someone who can do the job – that’s usually easy. For me it’s about finding people who will also love the company and demonstrably show a passion for the client I’m presenting to them.”
The importance of trust
Chris Dawson, founder of The Field, finalists in the Best Brand Experience – B2C category, is unequivocal on this point: “People are the raw materials of any agency. Therefore your recruitment techniques and processes could be viewed as the single most important strategic input into a business. One can never spend too much time honing the process by which you recruit and interview.”
He also speaks passionately about the unpredictable nature of any given individual within a team ethos, and how this impacts on his culture. “Even with the best experience and attitude, we are sometimes unreliable as individuals. An agency needs to leverage the values of the team ethos. A well-focussed and galvanised team is strong and adaptable, able to innovate and overcome obstacles, and can rescue individual team members when they may need it. Therefore the potential of the whole team, its combined ethos, is really top of the list in factors of success.”
Chris is of course talking about trust – perhaps the most important currency in terms of values. It is this singular value that drives his agency’s success. “Recommendation is widely accepted as the Holy Grail in any business,” he said. “We understand that ‘trust’ is the bridge to that recommendation, therefore our job as marketers is to help consumers build trust with brand,” he adds.
The benefits of diversity
Coming hand in hand with values is the similarly hot topic of diversity. My take on the February 2015 McKinsey and Company report Diversity Matters is that the D word (let’s call it that) is both a vision and a value. Winning is underpinned by financial performance. The authors of that report are very clear:
“More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns. This in turn suggests that other kinds of diversity – for example, in age, sexual orientation, and experience (such as a global mind-set and cultural fluency) – are also likely to bring some level of competitive advantage for companies that can attract and retain diverse talent.”
The Diversity Matters report examined data from 366 public companies in Canada, Latin America, the UK and the US. It contains a very illuminating conclusion:
“The findings are clear, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
Putting this in context of that common output of agency life – the response to a brief. In any given year, those briefs collectively speak to every demographic profile under the sun, yet how often do we see a collection of people from one very common demographic in media life, (white, youthful, middle class) come together to respond to a brief against an audience they cannot possibly have much empathy with. Diversity of opinion, beliefs and life experience are required to bring the success you need to win more clients, win your team’s hearts and minds and yes, do well at the awards.
Referring back to the night at the Hammersmith Apollo, it is in such rare moments that your culture is celebrated; the way you specifically do business is held up as the right way of doing things. It does not matter what line of work you are in: whether a jury of your peers has voted you Britain’s Best Brand Experience Agency or the finest French polisher in Peterborough, the bonds between a group of people are gilded with the varnish of success to further strengthen your culture and justify your vision.
In turn this increases the likelihood of winning more stuff in the future. Drop the C Bomb and the gongs will gather in multitudes on your mantelpiece. To this, Claire Stokes added an advisory note as the last words: “What I would reiterate, is the importance of ensuring that your team values success, not by how many awards they win, but how many happy clients we have.”
Hear, hear!
 
 

Should Outdoor Companies Create Content Divisions?

JCDecaux is testing the content waters. But is the ‘eight-second medium’ the right environment, David Benady asks
The decision by JC­Decaux to jump on the content bandwagon with the launch of a dedicated division for its digital billboards demanded attention last week.
The unit has already created a campaign featuring photos of members of the public who are “snappy dressers” to tie in with London Fashion Week. Further activity during National Curry Week featured pictures of chefs on outdoor digital screens. In future, brands will be able to work with the division to create their own branded content.
But are digital billboards the right medium for running editorial-style campaigns? Posters used to be known as the “eight-second medium”: the average time people spend looking at them. Go big and keep it simple is how many approach it, often with powerful effectiveness. So, does hosting more content – branded or otherwise – risk distracting the public and upstaging ad campaigns?
Janet Guest, the editorial director of JCDecaux’s new unit, points out that the company already offers editorial content, running Sky News updates on digital billboards at rail stations.
“Launching a content division makes sense for us because we have national scale and it is giving something back to customers. We are bringing something different that complements advertising on our screens,” she says.
JCDecaux has 1,500 screens across roadside, rail and retail, and its digital sites are seen by 40 per cent of the UK adult population. Guest says that this makes JCDecaux the equivalent to the fifth-biggest “TV station”, after ITV2.
The success of the venture will in part depend on the quality of the campaigns. People will need to learn to see posters as more than simple advertising; there could be an element of confusion on seeing billboards bearing editorial content.
This sums up the challenge for every medium as hybrids between editorial and advertising are explored.
It is still unclear quite what the public make of branded content or how effective it is at giving brands a boost. The industry can’t seem to agree on the implications either, as the responses to the above question show.

No: Mungo Knott, marketing and insight director, Primesight

“Outdoor ads are consumed in bite-size moments, attracting the eye of the audience. Our focus should be on helping the client to create the most effective use of the screen, not trying to trump their ad with a media owner’s own content.”

MAYBE: Clare Hill, managing director, Content Marketing Association

“One thing is critical to success: producing good content, which requires certain skills, whether in video, editorial or illustration. There’s no reason why an outdoor business can’t compete, so long as it applies the right principles.”

YES: Mick Mahoney, executive creative director, RKCR/Y&R

“If they do a great job, then it will stimulate what is already a creative environment. In theory, they should look to push their own boundaries. However, it appears that their starting position is conservative and possibly a little predictable.”

MAYBE: Clare Broadbent, chief executive, Cedar

“Engaging stories can live anywhere, and that includes OOH. But with consumers hit by a blizzard of 3,000-plus messages a day, it’s the brands creating customer-centric ideas across a range of channels that will win hearts (and wallets).”
Via: Campaign

What My Mentors Taught Me

Top tips from Frances Dickens, chief executive and co-founder of media barter specialist Astus Group.
I expect my experience of school is similar to that of a lot of business people who have succeeded in their careers despite, rather than because of, formal education. I also expect like me that their teachers played less of a role in shaping their work ethic and values than the handful of key colleagues who noticed their potential, encouraged them to excel and bollocked them if they didn’t.
The role of mentors in the workplace is a perennial topic and I am a big fan of formal mentoring schemes such US-based Million Women Mentors and WISE here in the UK which both aim to push female talent in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) sectors from classroom to boardroom.
My own career has been focussed on the media industry, initially as account handler for billboard company More O’Ferrall and currently as chief executive of Astus Group, the UK’s largest media barter company, where I oversee a team of 35 and a business turnover of £132.2m in 2013. In terms of my career trajectory, there are two women who helped ensure I confounded my teachers’ expectations and whom I’d regard as mentors: Annie Rickard, chief executive of outdoor specialist Posterscope and Christine Walker, former chief executive of Zenith Media and latterly joint MD of Walker Media. I met Annie when she hired me to work at outdoor specialist Harrison Salison which later became Posterscope. Christine and I worked together on the board of out of home specialists Meridian Outdoor, the joint venture between Posterscope and Zenith Optimedia.
Here are five key lessons my mentors taught me:
1. Preparation is key
Going into a meeting with Annie or Christine was a terrifying prospect IF you hadn’t prepared, as both are absolute perfectionists. On the board of Meridian Outdoor they were often both present at meetings and I quickly learned to anticipate the questions they were going to ask ahead of time and to ensure any documents I was handing out featured meticulous spelling and grammar. On the plus side, I learnt that if I argued my case really well they were prepared to listen and go with my recommendations.
2. Always deliver on your promises
One of the founding principles of Astus Group is that we only take on deals we are sure we can deliver against. This is a lesson I learned from Annie and Christine for whom delivery on business promises is almost an article of faith. Both women inspired tremendous client loyalty because of their track record of coming through for clients. Following their example has served me well at Astus where our insistence on meeting client expectation means we have repeat business levels of more than 95%.
3. Keep calm and carry on
Christine and Annie have experience of leading multimillion pound companies and both have fairly formidable reputations usually perpetuated by people who haven’t actually met them. The bottom line is that you’ve got to be tough if you’re leading a company -people’s livelihoods and careers depend on you making cool, calm decisions. Christine and Annie are both very calm under pressure. Come to think of it I’ve met way more panicky blokes at the top than panicky women.
4. Lead by example
As my boss at Posterscope, Annie taught be everything I know about account handling. One thing I particularly admire about her, and which I have tried to make a part of my own leadership style, is that she would never ask her staff to do anything she hadn’t or wouldn’t do herself. What’s more if the task was in anyway tough, she would be there doing it with you. Both Annie and Christine had a very open door policy and again an open working culture is one of the cornerstones of my own business.
5. Give people you trust a chance
Annie and Christine are great at empowering people who they perceive to have potential by giving them more responsibility. This explains how I came to be on the board of Meridian Outdoor. When I started Astus, Christine gave me a chance to prove that media barter worked despite having a very bad experience of media barter as it was practised at the time. I really admire her for being prepared to put her misgivings to one side and listen to how my company was going to change the existing discredited business model by focussing on delivery first. When the time was right she allowed me to talk to her clients about media barter and when they agreed to try it out we made sure we exceeded their expectations.
Via: Huffington Post

Will Driverless Cars Signal a New Opportunity for Roadside Posters?

The UK is set to allow driverless cars on the roads of Britain from January 2015. Business secretary Vince Cable said computer-controlled vehicles will be trialled in three cities next year, and the government will be making a £10m fund available for developing the technology in the UK. But what’s this mean for the out of home (OOH) industry?
Alarmists are likely already jumping at the chance to declare this the beginning of the end for roadside OOH sites. After all, if no one’s driving the car, who’s looking at the road and the adverts around it?
However, this is a something of a short-sighted position to take. In fact, driverless cars could be of tremendous value to the OOH industry. These automated vehicles will collect and generate a huge amount more data, which will enable advertisers to target their messaging to passengers far more accurately. Data is already being used innovatively for OOH targeting, such as a recent Mini campaign that used car recognition technology to display personalised content whenever a Mini driver passed a poster site. As driverless cars increase the data set available, the techniques and technology used to leverage it will become far more sophisticated.
Driverless cars also open up a huge new area for advertisers, as all of a sudden former drivers will have a great deal of time on their hands. Broadcasters, entertainment companies like Netflix and media giants like Google will be competing over an entirely new smart car entertainment ecosystem. There’s even the potential for these companies to subsidise the cost of the cars to ensure they are a part of the environment. Google’s already been looking at how it can monetise free taxi rides in driverless cars – serving ads in automated taxis to passengers during their ride rather than charging a fare. This opens a new opportunity for OOH to influence consumers’ digital behaviour, an attribute the medium has proven itself to excel at already.
As time moves on and we come to better understand the new consumption behaviours driverless cars will breed, the OOH industry is going to gain a much greater understanding of the impact of location. If driverless cars do become the norm, we’ll need to redefine what makes a ‘good’ OOH location beyond traditional high value locations to entirely new sites designed to capture the attention of a new generation of window gazers.
Passengers may well fill some of their time surfing the web, watching a film or reading a book, but that won’t be all they do. Natural human curiosity to know where you are and what’s out there, the stop-start nature of urban travel and an inevitable increase in motion sickness will keep passengers gazing out of the window. To all the naysayers, I implore you to think back to your last car ride as a passenger – did you take a look out of the window during the ride?
Ben Milne- Head of Innovation, Posterscope UK
Via: The Wall Blog