This month, we welcome Anthony Deeble, VMO, Australia And New Zealand
- You have a background in commercial TV with Ten. Please tell us how and why you moved into the world of Digital Out-of-Home. How are you putting that TV background to advantage in DOOH?
I saw an opportunity about 14 years ago to develop content-rich dynamic Digital Outdoor networks. My view at the time was that Outdoor had an opportunity to change gears. I had a vision of a traditional medium using modern technology to better engage and connect with audiences to deliver better value for advertisers.
I felt that the timing was right and the industry was on the verge of something really exciting. My experience and background in commercial TV – where dynamic content was the mainstay – were well matched with a desire to build a new-age Digital Outdoor media business. From the outset, I knew that DOOH had to be about audience engagement and that meant that rich dynamic content would have to be at the centrepiece. TV taught me that.
The business started with me in my study with one shopping centre and three digital screens. It is now an Australian and New Zealand DOOH business with nearly 10,000 digital screens and a skilled team of almost 100 DOOH specialists.
- You don’t consider VMO (formerly Val Morgan Outdoor) as a traditional outdoor business but rather as an ‘audience engagement business’. What do you mean by that and why is your audience engagement better than that of other outdoor advertising companies?
At VMO, our focus is innovation, innovation in DOOH. Our company is uniquely positioned in that we are 100% digital. All our competitors in Australia have static assets. So we don’t consider ourselves to be a traditional outdoor business because of our digital nature.
Key to our growth and success in market has been utilising the very best digital technology at the time, as well as rich dynamic content to better engage audiences. I started the company with this vision and it still stands today.
For example, our exclusive real time audience engagement tool DART uses machine learning technology to identify audience demographics and engagement. This visual data is anonymously collected to offer our clients greater insights on their audience and campaign performance. This technology has enabled us to serve content programmatically. As far as I’m aware, we’re the only DOOH operator doing this using real time audience data.
Another example of how we use digital technology to engage is through the VMO Lab, which is our engine room for Digital innovation. It is via the VMO Lab that we activate experiential concepts such the PayWave for Pedigree (a local dog food provider) where we integrated PayWave into a billboard to raise donations for Pet Rescue. A first in Australia!
- Were DART and PULSE developed in-house? Can you please explain what each of these is?
DART and PULSE are customised products that have been developed for our company’s unique needs.
At VMO, we recognised that current Out-of-Home methodologies lacked the sophistication to capture audience engagements in Digital Outdoor. So we developed DART as an advanced audience measurement tool to provide greater accountability for our partners. We anonymously report on 18 demographic profiles, who viewed and when they viewed: We are able to get that level of intelligent metrics via PULSE, our ad serving system, and DART working synergistically.
We launched DART 2.0 in November, 2014, and since its initial launch we’ve been learning and testing the software to further advance its capabilities. We’re now proud to offer clients: • More possibilities via technological advancements; • More insights and meaningful data; • Greater accountability and transparency.
- Your company, Outpost Media, through sales and mergers, is now VMO owned by the Hoyts Group, which is strong in cinema complexes and cinema screen advertising. How has that influenced VMO’s offerings?
Our business has a highly successful track record of growth via both acquisitions and the organic expansion of our digital networks. We have grown from, initially, the Retail/Mall media vertical, to now include a network of near 10,000 digital screens across shopping centres (Retail/Mall), Petro stations, Office buildings and Health Clubs in Australia and New Zealand. The Hoyts Group acquired the business in late 2008 and its involvement has been fantastic. Its business, like ours, shares a common desire to lead in innovation and customer/client experience.
- Hoyts itself is now owned by WANDA Cultural Industry Group in China. With WANDA’s extensive group of companies involving Sports, Hospitality, and more, can you foresee it offering new possibilities for VMO?
The Wanda group is an international leader in a number of industries, including Cinema via the Wanda Cultural Industry Group, so, potentially, yes, VMO’s expertise could be deployed across a number of group companies. But our immediate focus is our ongoing success and growth across our chosen DOOH verticals in Australia and New Zealand. That said, VMO will continue to explore opportunities in markets where our skills could be deployed to grow valuable DOOH marketplaces.
- VMO Lab’s work has included using Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Holograms, gestures and other disruptive technologies for clients. Please give us a couple of examples.
For one, Pedigree with Integrated payWave into kennels and an activation Australia-wide.
VMO brought to life an Australian-first Digital Outdoor experience integrating payWave to help raise awareness and donations for Pedigree ‘Feed the Good’, a local dog charity initiative. The activation featured a 90” HD screen encased in a branded Pedigree shroud in each state, as well as 55 kennels designed for products in supermarkets. Each unit had payWave integrated. The creative on the activation invited people to donate $2 to charity and with each donation the creative changed to a happy, fed dog to indicate a change to the dog’s life and to reward participants for their charitable donation.
The activations across each state of Australia were also amplified with the VMO Shop network (now 1,400 digital screens in Shopping Centres). The screen content featured dogs available for adoption in the local area. Results from the client showed a 25% increase in dog adoption year-over-year and DART demonstrated strong engagement.
Another example involved how weather sponsorship drives greater engagement.
The state of New South Wales Government partnered with VMO On-the-go to launch a weather targeting campaign for Motorcycles NSW. The campaign was designed to drive awareness of various road conditions. Each of these was accompanied by a relevant weather safety message to handle these conditions. The On-the-go network was programmed to use live weather data as triggers for the different creatives, which were then geo-targeted to specific danger zones around NSW.
What made this campaign unique:
- It was a highly relevant campaign targeting all motorists, driving above average campaign engagement
- It was designed in-house by the VMO Creative services team
- DART demonstrated above average campaign engagement
- In the retail sector, VMO has invested heavily to create what you say is the largest path-to-purchase in Australia’s shopping centres. You have over 1,400 screens in retail locales. Are these screens used strictly for advertising, or do the stores use them to show wider inventory, as sales aids for staff or in other ways?
Our digital retail network, VMO Shop, delivers engaging content to shoppers, with contextually relevant messages: for example, promotions about shopping centre events and attractions, and entertainment content along with weather and client advertising. We also offer retailer packages that help to deliver deeper engagement for local stores. In fact, we have just opened a Direct Sales division with the mission to expand these opportunities. Shopper’s local retailer advertising helps to create greater localized relevance and to support local businesses.
And, we’re thrilled to be launching, in later 2017, a new content strategy across the VMO Shop network, a strategy designed to drive even deeper engagement amongst shoppers.
- Your newest division is VMO Active in health and fitness centres. How many and what type of screens do you have in these networks? Do you approach people who frequent these centres differently than, eg., those in a retail store, to increase their engagement?
VMO Active is our largest screen network: we have over 5,200 screens in over 150 Health Club locations in Australia. The screens vary in size, shape and function. All screens across the VMO network are strategically positioned and custom designed to suit the environment.
For example, on VMO Active, we have a music network interspersed with advertising. We have a magazine publication and online presence that supports it as well, but the music network is unique to this environment, because we know that people want to hear up-beat music when they are working out. The health club audiences are typically hard to reach, they are time-poor, active people that don’t consume traditional media, so we value them as high value audiences.
We are really excited about VMO Active and are currently growing the footprint by more than 50% in terms of locations, also deploying our highly successful audience metrics platform, DART, a world first in the health club environment, as far as we know.
- You also offer VMO On-the-go network at petrol stations and their related convenience store locations. How many screens and locations do you have for these? In these, you offer both On-the-go TV and On-the-go Extra. What is the difference between them?
At the moment, we have 460 locations and over 2,720 screens. We are in a rapid expansion programme at the moment so by the end of the year we expect the network to have 4,000 screens in 700 locations.
OTG TV is an audio enabled platform that offers one-to-one engagement at the petrol bowser (ie. pump). On-the-go Extra is designed to catch impulse consumers at the entry to convenience stores.
- VMO Work is another division, offering screens in the lobbies and waiting areas in office buildings in New Zealand. Are there plans to extend this offering in Australia as well?
In the New Zealand market, we have more than 50 key office towers with further growth plans. The VMO Work format is currently only available in New Zealand. However, like all verticals, we continue to access opportunities.
- What exactly is your new Premium Full Screen take-over? How does that differ from your other offerings?
VMO Work in NZ has recently introduced a full screen content take-over mixed into the presentation loop. What this means is that a piece of creative will extend across the full size of the screen. Normally, the digital screens are enhanced with other relevant content suited to the professional office environment. The content mix ranges between advertising clients and content that professionals value such as: business news, sports, weather, international trends, financial indexes, etc.
The Full Screen take-over is a premium offering because of its ability to engage and impact. The full screen content for a few select clients makes it really effective programming.
- Whose content management system do you use, and why?
We recently selected the Ayuda Media Systems CMS to integrate into our Pulse platform that is bespoke to VMO. Pulse basically welds all our platforms together including our audience measurement system DART. We decided to work with Ayuda because of its well-developed CMS support tools, robust and flexible media player software and our shared focus on advancing programmatic capabilities.
- How are you using programmatic with your Digital Outdoor?
VMO is leading the development of programmatic in the Australian and NZ markets, with several successful campaigns already delivered. In short, we’re using our DART platform to determine who’s viewing our screens in real-time, then Pulse is playing content targeted to a selected demographic group, often further layered by location and time-of-day. Still early days, but VMO is already delivering greater efficiencies for our clients with very little wastage, targeting the right audience with real accuracy. We are then reporting actual viewer numbers and true engagement metrics. Only a fully digital network can provide that level of transparency. That’s taking accountability to a new level never previously seen in outdoor.
- Do you feel that Australia and New Zealand still offer expansion possibilities for VMO? Can for foresee expanding beyond these?
VMO will continue to rapidly grow our business, in fact our network will grow by circa 30% during 2017, a position and rate of growth we’ve enjoyed for several years now. We see both organic and acquisition level growth ahead, and we continue to keep a keen eye on growth opportunities in other markets that have solid business cases that match our developed skills.
- The U.K. and U.S. are where most of the action is when it comes to industry conferences while major trade shows are usually in Europe and the U.S.. Do you attend these often? If so, do you learn a lot from them? Or should companies be looking at what Australian and New Zealand companies are doing?
I’ve been attending the Digital Signage Expo for several years and travel overseas frequently to ensure that our business is well informed on the very best technology and information relevant for our industry. We often also share with other international DOOH operators our key learning to support shared learning on common verticals.
Recently, we had our head of digital and innovation speak at Integrated Systems Europe 2017 in Amsterdam and we’re looking at other opportunities such as these.
We believe that we are a world class provider of DOOH and the technology we use is best-in-class, so absolutely, companies should look to Australia for inspiration. We look to inspire the market in Australia from our international learnings. We do that currently through thought leadership and initiatives such as our Innovation Showcase, where we demonstrate future DOOH trends mixed with current new digital opportunities that VMO can offer.