This month we welcome Jeroen Hilllenaar, CEO and Founder, Hillenaar Outdoor, Leiderdorp, The Netherlands
- What is your background, and, prior to founding Hillenaar the first time in 1990, what drew you to the Out-of-Home business?
I started my media career at Lintas SSC&B, now known as Lintas: Worldwide. Lintas was one of the first advertising agencies in the Netherlands that started a media agency: Initiative media. I started in what was a completely new industry. During my time at Initiative, I learned a lot and became interested in outdoor advertising. I came to realise that there was a gap in the market for my own outdoor advertising agency.
As a young entrepreneur, I quickly saw every corner of a building as an opportunity to place a billboard. Imagine a young entrepreneur knocking on your door asking you what you would like to earn by leasing your wall. For them, it must have been a strange experience, but for myself it worked! For me, OOH advertisements seemed like an easy way to start. A lot easier than starting your own magazine back in those days!
- You sold the majority of your first company’s shares to Clear Channel International in 2001 and then stayed on there as a director. In 2017, you again founded Hillenaar Outdoor. Why did you leave and why did you want to resurrect your original company?
After working at Clear Channel International for 15 years, it was time for something new. I was always used to having my own freedom and, of course, in a large worldwide company, you have to report to others. That was something I didn’t want to do anymore. Besides, I was still the founder and owner of Ticketveiling.nl, an auction website for amusement parks and all sorts of leisure activities. As Ticketveiling.nl was growing rapidly, it needed more of my attention. In addition, I also had a company called Hillenaar Events, which was also expanding. This meant that there was more than enough work for me to do in my own businesses.
After almost 30 years in the business, I’m aware of the opportunities and added value of OOH advertising for one’s business. Therefore, I had the idea to start my own OOH company again. Furthermore, I am sure that there is no better market than the digital OOH market!
- What did you learn at Clear Channel that you are now applying to your own company?
In a large company such as Clear Channel, there is a lot of information and data about our customers and the market. Choices are made by analyzing data. I was not used to doing this, since I had always made choices on my own, often based on my own gut feeling. At my own companies, such as Ticketveiling.nl, we work with three data analysts who are continuously monitoring our businesses. That is something I learned during my time at Clear Channel.
However, I still feel the pressure to think out of the box. A good example of this is the fact that I bought over 60 full-size dinosaurs last winter to start my own World of Dino’s exhibition. I had no idea if was going to be successful and if I was able to sell tickets for it. I just jumped into it and now, about six months later, it will be the largest dinosaur exhibition in Europe!
Sometimes you need to take a risk, jump into it and see where it will take you. Besides organizing events, I enjoy the synergy of creating and promoting our own products and selling them on our own platforms such as Ticketveiling.nl and Tripper.
- How many advertising faces do you have? And in what various formats?
We have over 1,300 faces throughout the Netherlands in a variety of formats. There are a number of traditional adshels as well as a digital network of full motion adshels placed in the top locations in the Netherlands (The Hague/Scheveningen and Amsterdam). Since the start of this year, we also have six signs along the highway. These are being digitalised this year, as well as our new board in Amsterdam at the Musuemplein.
However, I can imagine that this information may be already outdated by the time you are reading this, seeing as we are constantly updating our inventory. My goal is to have something new every month. Sometimes we are lucky and have something new every two weeks!
- From what I’ve seen, your company’s products are all located in the west of the Netherlands. Do you plan to expand in the rest of the Netherlands? Or to other countries? When and where, or, if not, why not?
We are primarily located in the west (Randstad) of the Netherlands as it holds the largest cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague. Over 65% of the entire Dutch population is living in this part of the Netherlands.
I’m not interested in expanding Hillenaar Outdoor to the rest of Europe as it is not of any interest for my other companies. Besides, I have a broad network within the Netherlands. However, there is still plenty I would like to change within the market before even considering expanding Hillenaar Outdoor elsewhere.
- In some countries, advertising to children in forbidden, yet you have the TENQ network for students. Can you tell us a little more about the TENQ network? How many schools are involved, what age group are the students, and what kind of advertising does this network carry?
The TENQ network is a unique digital advertising network in the Netherlands that focuses both on the health of the young and the advertising industry. We provide schools with a unique watercooler with a built-in advertising screen to display advertisements specifically for youths between the age of 12-22 years. We work closely with an organization that promotes healthy nutrition in schools. It’s a great way to support both the industry and the environment!
Currently, we have placed TENQ’s in nearly 250 schools and are reaching about 250,000 students a day. Various other advertisers use the TENQ network as well, for example, the Dutch army, the government, banks, Google and numerous universities. This is a great way to combine both educational aspects and the advertising market.
- You announced at the FEPE Congress in Sorrento that Ayuda would be the backbone for all Hillenaar advertising activities, including digital advertising displays, sales, back office activities and customer-focused engagement tools. What made you choose Ayuda?
The search for the perfect system meant considering all options. After a long search, I came to the conclusion that Ayuda was the only platform that was able to satisfy our needs and fit our core values. Our core values are: delivering flexibility, service, and highly customized campaigns.
In Ayuda, we have selected a strategic partner that not only powers all of our traditional and digital campaigns using a software platform, but one that shares our culture, flexibility and service.
- You stated that you believe Ayuda can help Hillenaar “transform the Dutch OOH industry and give us insights to set new standards”. Can you explain your thoughts on this?
Currently, the Dutch OOH industry is working in a very traditional manner. We need to change this market by automating processes. It doesn’t need to take a few days to decide whether you are going to advertise on a highway sign. You must be able to check the availability and be able to upload your ad as you drive by. While you are driving away to your next meeting you will be able to see the sign changing in your rear-view mirror.
This, of course, not only applies to our digital highway signs but also for all our street furniture. I know that this process will take time but as long as we are focusing on the future, we will be able to achieve this. I know this for certain!
- Your new 52 poster panels at Arnhem bus station can only be booked in their entirety by one advertiser. Why did you decide this and how is it working? Can you give us an example?
Again, this is an example about not thinking within the traditional ways of advertisement. The previous owner of these panels was using it for all sorts of advertising. But let’s face it, if you place four rows of 13 panels next to each other, you will never remember all the 13 advertisers.
If you change this into a large visual with one advertiser, it has a lot more impact. This is exactly what we stand for, ‘media with impact’.
- How many staff work at Hillenaar Outdoor? Do you also create content in-house for clients?
In November last year, Hillenaar Outdoor had four staff members. Now, about eight months later, we are working with 10 staff members and I’m sure this will grow to a lot more. I can imagine that we will be working with about 15 staff members by the end of this year. We are creating content for our clients but we are not an advertising agency.
On the other hand, I would like outdoor advertising to be available for as many companies as possible. It often happens that small businesses would like to use a panel nearby their shop, but they have no knowledge of designing and OOH. We are more than willing to help them with the rest of the process.
- What are your views on the creativity produced in your country?
To be honest, over the years there has been little change. As a media company, you always wish to be more creative. For example, we have a broad network of digital panels and still there are advertisers not using this to the fullest. There are still a lot of stationary visuals, too few full motion visuals, and there is way too much information being communicated on the visuals.
- What percentage of your advertising faces is digital? In what formats are these Digital Out-of-Home faces and where are they mainly located?
Currently, about 25% of our advertising faces are digital. However, I’m sure this amount will only increase over the next year. All our faces are always placed near consumer hotspots, tourist attractions or busy streets. The formats of our faces are very varied. We have standard 2m² sizes but also some unique 4m² sizes, and of course our new highway signs of 100m².
- Hillenaar reaches over one million consumers per day. What measurement systems do you use?
Currently, I am a board member of a partnership called Outreach, a collaboration between the largest OOH players. This partnership works closely with Het Buitenreclame Onderzoek (The OOH Research) where they apply methods to collect data of every panel in the Netherlands. They collect data on VAC (visibility adjustment contact) and the movement of people in the Netherlands, so that you can compare the panels of various OOH companies.
- What percentage of your advertising is national? Who are three of your biggest national clients?
I think that around 75% of our advertisers are national. Our three biggest national clients are T-Mobile, Coca Cola and Unilever. However, this could change at any moment, since we are always adding new clients to our network.
- You mentioned a while ago that you were investing, not only in a new building, but in digital, in your sales team and in your marketing department. What have you done in these to date?
At the start of 2017, we began moving into a new (modern) building with a large garden for all our staff. This was something which is very important for me. Without my staff, I wouldn’t be able to do all the things we are doing now.
Workwise, we are expanding our inventory to new places in the Netherlands such as Diemen (near Amsterdam) and Den Bosch. In these places, we are deploying some of our newest digital panels with a height of 4m². We are also expanding our highway signs by modernizing them with new digital panels.
- You also have companies called Tripper and Ticketveiling.nl. They seem to involve an exchange of tickets for OOH. Please explain what this is and how it works?
Ticketveiling.nl is an auction website where visitors can win tickets for amusement parks and all sorts of leisure activities. For amusement parks, it is easier to exchange tickets in return for OOH advertising than to pay for an OOH advertisement directly, since their marketing budgets are often very limited and they’re not always using OOH advertising to the fullest. Combining our resources and their tickets leads to very innovative campaigns like the one we did for Phantasialand, a large amusement park in Germany. For both the amusement parks and for us, it’s a win-win situation.
We soon came to realise that bidding on an auction was not something every customer enjoyed, so we decided to build a new concept based on the same principles as Ticketveiling.nl. That new concept was named Tripper. At Tripper, a daily deal site, a customer is able to buy a ticket for that same amusement park for a fixed price that is still cheaper than the normal. Possibly, it’s not as cheap as they would be able to get it at Ticketveiling.nl, but they are guaranteed to have the tickets they want.
- Are you involved in programmatic buying yet? What are your views on this?
With our customer focus and high service approach, we are a strong advocate of programmatic buying. Offering our inventory by SSP will enable our customers direct access to our inventory. Currently, we are offering our highway signs by programmatic platforms. Our other digital inventory will soon be available as well.
- How do you foresee Hillenaar Outdoor by the year 2020?
In the year 2020 we will have doubled our inventory as well as tripled our market share. However, I still find quality the most important aspect of all my services. I would still want to give my customers the same personal attention that they are used to getting from Hillenaar.
- What do you think could/should be done to make the OOH/DOOH industry in Europe gain market share?
I think we need to continue with all of the digital possibilities that are out there. Think outside the box and try new things! We need to bring Outdoor spots to the places where the advertiser wants them to be. Let’s bring OOH to A-spot locations and blow the customers away with state of the art technology and ads.