Mt Vesuvius Sorrento

FEPE posed the questions; software holds the answers

As we settle back into post-FEPE life at our desks, we’ve been reflecting on the many questions raised at this year’s annual congress in Sorrento.

It seems the end goal is clear. As an industry, we need to make OOH easier to plan and buy in order to keep up with the rise and rise of online and mobile advertising.

But how we actually go about reaching that end goal and making a complex medium such as D/OOH automated and simple to buy was not really answered, and remains foggy at best.

FEPE Sorrento

We founded Signkick with a clear mission: to help media owners make their inventory easy for advertisers to buy, and easy for them to sell. We’re not just here to sell you our software (although in all honesty that’s what we’d like to do!),  we’re here, with a wealth of experience in both camps, to help translate technology to the media world.

For many OOH media owners, entering the world of automation looks scary and expensive. Technology has a track record of fragmenting audiences and fractionalising revenue in other advertising channels. But as PJ Soloman’s Mark Boidman rightly pointed out, “Technology is not a friend to any classic media channel, except for OOH

In Mediatel’s insightful article Dominic Mills explains that “OOH is a totally unique medium, immune to the negative impacts of tech on advertising – fraud, viewability, ad blocking – but derives positive benefits from digitisation in terms of inventory growth, multiplied (as opposed to fractionalised) revenue opportunities, better data than before, better targeting and so on. At the same time, unrelated to tech but thanks to growing urbanisation, audiences are increasing.” So as he says “What’s not to like?”

So we get the need to embrace technology and jump on into the automation race. But how do you actually do that? Well, we see two clear options.

Option 1: Invest the time and resources to build your own automation technology

Given the time, expertise and budgets required to do this successfully, this is really only an option for the big players, and many are already making strides towards it.

Option 2: Take FEPE’s advice and collaborate – with an existing software provider

This approach can work for anyone but is a particularly good approach for smaller media owners. Partnering with a software company to transition to automated trading is like recruiting a fully trained, tech team who have spent the time developing and testing your new automation software.

But like recruiting a new team member, it’s imperative to ensure they are the right fit and have your business’s best interests at heart. As the recruiter, you need to have a clear handle on the skills you already possess and the problems you are looking to solve through tech and why. If you’re not sure, starting a conversation with a software provider early can help pose these questions, bringing challenges and opportunities to the surface.

Just like potential recruits, tech companies have different strengths, and most won’t do everything as a one-stop-shop. If they say they can, it’s probably time to ask a few more questions. We believe that collaboration should be the modus operandi of software companies as well as media companies. So talk to providers that answer different parts of the jigsaw: creative execution, delivery, client management, online sales, automated transactions, programmatic trading. Many, like Signkick, operate their software on a modular basis, meaning you can start small and find a combination that answers your most pressing needs first, then evolves and grows as your needs do too.

With experienced media folk at the helm at Signkick, we’ve been around the OOH business long enough to know that tech isn’t the golden ticket. To thrive in the coming years, media owners will still need exceptional sales teams, a good product and a definable audience. But by collaborating with a tech partner now, not only do media owners have an opportunity to use automation to become more efficient, open up new markets and operate automated transactions, but to establish a collaboration that will give them a leg up on technology advancements into the future.

FEPE OOH Conference Tom Goddard

Collaborate and Automate: FEPE International’s 59th Annual Congress

The Sorrento sun was shining on the OOH industry as the 59th annual FEPE International Congress kicked off last week. With over 400 delegates from 40 countries, it was a truly international affair, with updates on a thriving OOH industry in Latin American, China, the USA, Japan and closer to home in Europe and the UK. As we settled in to discuss how we might, as an industry, “frame our future” some common threads quickly appeared.

Tom Goddard, FEPE President and Ocean Outdoor Chairman set the tone, calling on the industry to collaborate in order to frame a prosperous future for OOH. Annie Rickard, former President of Posterscope, commanded the audience reiterating that “now’s the time to put collaboration ahead of the competition.”

Collaborate and Automate

Rickard went on to the hot topic of automation and ‘the P word’ stating we must “automate to survive” and that automation was “an important topic worthy of discussion at this conference”.

And it certainly was discussed. Many speakers echoed this call to the industry to automate and make OOH easier to buy, including Nick Parker, Global COO, Kinetic “in a year’s time the industry must have a better way of working. And that must include automation”

PJ Soloman’s Mark Boidman rightly pointed out that “just as investment money goes where the returns are best, so buyers will put their money where it is easy to buy. If you can buy video, mobile or publishers so easily, why take the extra hassle of buying OOH?”

By the end of the first day of FEPE, it was abundantly clear that the industry needs to pull together to make OOH as easy for advertisers to buy as mobile or online.

Meeting with Fepe delegates at the Signkick Stand

But how do we collaborate?

Sitting firmly on the side of media owners, and hearing the reservations they have in the race to automate, we wonder whether there is a way to collaborate that doesn’t mean the must amalgamate.

It’s a well-known fact that using technology within a business helps to simplify processes to increase efficiency, automates menial tasks to allow for growth and innovation and helps standardise procedures to create collaborative, connected teams.

So what if this same approach could be applied to an entire industry?

Using an off the shelf technology or software solution means you can stay independent, and retain full control over the way your inventory is sold. But it also means you operate a universally user-friendly platform that connects seamlessly with other platforms as well as to other companies with the OOH industry and beyond.

Science and Technology Journalist Gemma Milne was a bit of a wildcard for many at this year’s FEPE conference. However, she made an interesting point about the high expectations coming generations of buyers hold for the usability of technology “If it works well, we’ll become evangelists, if it doesn’t, we won’t hesitate to go elsewhere.”

This reflects the sentiment of the OAAA/Geopath conference held in Austin in May, where Nancy Fletcher, OAAA President also made a call for industry collaboration saying that “collaboration and partnerships will expedite the challenges the industry is facing and make them less costly in the long run.”

At Signkick, we believe the imperative set by FEPE is clear. We must make strides toward automation. But rather than each developing individual systems in silos, we must find a way to collaborate as an industry. Technology isn’t necessarily the golden ticket, but there is an opportunity to use it to deliver different elements of the automation jigsaw and navigate an industry-wide route to automation that is collaborative and seamlessly connected. Only once we achieve this will we be able to take back from the pots of other advertising mediums, and in the words of Annie Rickard focus on “making our medium famous again.”

Signkick team at FEPE Sorrento