DOOH advertising done right: exclusive interview with Amscreen’s Mike Hemmings
By Nurlan Urazbaev, Editor-in-Chief, Digital Signage Pulse
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
As a digital out-of-home market observer, I have been following Amscreen for a few years now. If I had to imagine an ideal DOOH network, Amscreen would probably be the closest one. A rare occurrence in DOOH advertising, the company seemed to do almost everything right: from content strategy and screen locations to use of technology, audience targeting and ad effectiveness measurement.
With over 6500 outdoor screens in operation, Amscreen calls itself “Europe’s largest, fastest growing Digital Outdoor Network.”
Mike Hemmings, International Marketing Director at AMScreen Ltd, shared with me his insights into the reasons behind the network’s success and the future of DOOH advertising.
NU: What is Amscreen?
MH: With its heritage grounded in technology, Amscreen is a global DOOH media owner and solutions provider whose individuality lies in the control we have in developing our hardware and software technologies. This enables our systems to reflect advances in the Digital OOH and advertising sectors and pave new ways to reach clients and target audiences effectively.
What differentiates Amscreen from the competition?
We spend a lot of time and resources developing our own technology; this means we are not dependent on reams of 3rd party suppliers, like many other players in the sector. These technologies include our GEO+ functionality that allows content to be automatically tailored and delivered across our UK-wide screen network en mass, as well as OptimEyes. OptimEyes is our own facial detection-based audience measurement platform. OptimEyes is based on a Quividi software version that was fully customized and enhanced for Amscreen. The output of OptimEyes is called Audience Assured Advertising (AAA).
After a recent campaign Amscreen ran for Ford, William Smith-Brook, Business Director at Mindshare commented: “More targeting, greater relevance of message and improved accountability – three things that have now become a prerequisite when we’re planning any media campaign. The Amscreen Ford activation ticked all three of these boxes… Being able to provide our clients with such detailed rationale both pre- and post-campaign represents a real change for digital out-of-home as a whole.”
I think this demonstrates how we differ from many other media owners. Our technology allows targeted advertisements and, most importantly, makes our clients’ campaigns transparent and accountable.
The volume of screens we have deployed and our reach also separate us from the competition, with screens positioned in high profile venues across the UK and globally, reaching millions on the go every day.
How would you define your market position?
Apart from being the UK’s largest digital outdoor network, we’ve also been expanding faster than any other networks due in part to the scalability of our product (hardware and software. – Ed). We are the only ‘plug and play’ solution on the market.
What is the estimated audience size and how is it measured?
Globally we have 6500+ screens, delivering 57 million impacts each week. In the UK we now have 3800+ screens with 33 million impacts, which is approximately 13 million individual adults every week.
Our audience is measured through our OptimEyes data, and partner transaction data (EPOS) which gives actual footfall through every single site where we have a screen presence.
What’s your target market penetration (share)?
With a network that spans the length and breadth of the UK in venues from convenience, forecourt and healthcare, we come into contact with a huge swathe of the general UK population, so we don’t have a specific target market per se. In fact, the beauty of our technologies such as OptimEyes is that it is able to identify individuals by age, gender and location; therefore we can identify and target all manner of audiences and actually allow advertisers to only pay for those audiences that they’re actually wanting to reach.
Could you describe the content model for your digital displays?
Our loop is 110 seconds long with 10-second slots, these values increase in our healthcare venues, where the dwell time is longer, to a 10-minute loop with 20-second slots.
The loop is comprised of sponsored local traffic and news updates, partner promotions or information and national adverts. Content is key, and we have found that this mix of informational, relevant content and advertising content keeps audiences engaged.
Who are some of your best-known advertisers?
We have worked with Ford on an innovative campaign encompassing both thermally triggered content and geo targeting. We also work with FMCG brands such as Walkers, Cadbury, Mars and also Pepsi, targeting consumers at the point of purchase. More recently, we are seeing more and more brands using Amscreen to target SMEs (small and medium size enterprises). Brands such as PayPal, Ibis and AXA have taken advantage of our audience data and targeting in forecourt locations to reach those business people on the go.
Can you describe some of the most successful campaigns?
As mentioned above, our campaign with Ford incorporated a combination of automated targeting based on thermally triggered ads and GEO+ technology to deliver two sets of hyper local content across 1335 forecourt locations. Utilising Amscreen’s creative solutions and OptimEyes technology Ford delivered relevant, engaging messaging to their target audience – men aged 35-64, from whom they received 2.9 million views from during the campaign.
More recently, to celebrate Season 5 of zombie thriller The Walking Dead arriving on NOW TV and to raise awareness of the new series, NOW TV and creative agency WCRS created a film for Amscreen which brought the zombies of The Walking Dead to service stations nationwide. The ad mimics CCTV footage, making the viewer believe they are looking at surveillance camera screens of the petrol station forecourt, which is gradually being overrun with zombies. For extra impact, the ad was only played after 7 pm when it was dark and it successfully caught the attention of many unsuspecting drivers heading home for the evening.
How do you measure the effectiveness of ads on your network? Could you give examples of campaign ROI?
Our OptimEyes technology and Audience Assured Advertising platform enables us to measure and monitor the demographics brand campaigns are reaching. Campaign data is regularly reviewed to ensure delivery of the volume and demographic of audience purchased. Campaigns can be adjusted in real time to ensure they are reaching brands’ target demographics effectively.
We use both qualitative research during campaign periods and also EPOS data for stocked brands such as newspapers and other FMCG brands. The screens have delivered high levels of brand recall for a range of advertisers, for example, 74% for a popular utilities brand and 40% for a popular motors related brand. Additionally, EPOS data has recorded sales uplifts, for example 30% for a chocolate brand and 29% for a mint brand.
Do you sell advertising space directly, through agencies or both?
We use both media and specialist agencies and also have relationships with clients directly. Currently the majority of our business comes through agencies.
What are the challenges facing the DOOH advertising media and your company in particular?
Transparency, measurability and flexibility are the hot topics within the sector. Outdoor advertising is one of the media segments where it is still harder to truly demonstrate ROI and reach. Amscreen are actively working to resolve this challenge with our own tech such as OptimEyes, our real-time audience face detection-based tracking platform. Adoption of this type of audience measurement metrics, however, is still slow; we remain for the time being the only DOOH network to have truly integrated this technology within our advertising product.
The challenges revolve around large outdoor ad companies trying to find a revenue model that works for them, one that doesn’t compromise revenues on their traditional paper-and-paste side of their business, as well as existing digital monies.
Integration of mobile with DOOH has also been a topic over the last few years and no one has cracked this yet. NFC, iBeacon, QR codes or AR (augmented reality) have all been lauded as game-changers in terms of taking people from offline (or off screen/wall) to online and then on the path to purchase. But consumers have vehemently disagreed, simply by being reluctant to adopt the above technologies up to now. Isolated stunts have generated much PR but delivered very few tangible benefits or long-term interactions.
A minimal-touch application or other tech interacting with a mobile device has to offer the consumers some consistent and tangible benefits. Until then, this will remain just a ‘nice to have’ thing or an award entry, rather than a scalable and efficient way to take shoppers from ‘wall to web’ and then to a purchase transaction.
What is the direction in which the DOOH advertising industry is going? How is Amscreen preparing to fit into that future?
As I mentioned, the direction is towards measurability and more efficient targeting. Fusing data sets whether this is weather, EPOS, real-time audience data (OptimEyes) or traffic will help optimize and enhance the impact of our advertiser’s content.
There is still talk of incorporating DOOH into a trading desk or other programmatic buying models but again, the commercial feasibility of programmatic has yet to be tested and it has its fair share of doubters in the sector. It is something Amscreen and others are however investigating, and we do expect to make some progress on this in 2015.
We continue to lead the way in scalable, connected ad screen products and in servicing real-time content triggered by ‘environmental’ or other external factors. Of course, the more real-time data sets we have, the more relevant the content will be, and this is where we see the extra potential while planning for 2015.
‘Screen agnosticism’ is also something we have been talking a lot about in 2014 – this is in essence the idea that consumers come into contact with multiple screens at multiple times of the day – each screen having its own place in the daily journey. What ties them all together is that as consumers, we can now expect any content to be delivered on any one of the screen platforms.
Environment has become less of a focus. When you’re ‘buried’ in a screen, environment is only important as it dictates the length of time you typically have to engage with the content, and the type of screen. For instance, on a 10-minute train ride it may be mobile, and we know that in a 2-minute queue it is likely to be an Amscreen. We therefore talk more about our product in terms of being one of the screen touch points in someone’s daily screen repertoire or journey.
We are the dominant platform during a specific part of an individual’s day, just like a TV set may be the dominant platform when are on your sofa at home.
There is an ongoing debate about what to call the medium: digital place-based media, digital out-of-home, digital outdoor, digital screen media and digital signage, etc. What do you think is the proper name for the medium and why?
‘Digital Out-of-Home’ is the most-used name at the moment, but we are now as far away from traditional out-of-home as TV is to radio, so going forward I believe it is important to redefine this medium.
For Amscreen’s official website, click here
Related video links:
OptimEyes video: http://bit.ly/1wL0omS
Videos of Amscreen campaigns: