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