This month, we welcome Phil Daniel, Managing Director, Sales and Marketing, Admedia, London, U.K..
- You have been with Admedia for more than eight years, holding two other positions prior to becoming managing director, sales and marketing. What is your earlier background and what attracted you to the company?
Having worked in various non-media roles after leaving Cardiff University, I moved to London in 1999 and got a media sales job selling the classified section in Broadcast magazine for EMAP. I then moved to Teletext before going travelling for a couple of years. It was when I returned in 2003 that I got my first role in Outdoor with JCDecaux Airports, from which I joined Admedia in 2007. I really enjoyed my time at JCDA, but the decision- making about Airport activity for a huge number of the clients was made at an international level, where I had no influence. As such, the big attraction of Admedia was being able to operate in the UK market and be more in control of my own destiny.
I have always liked an environmental rather than broadcast sell. I find it a more interesting tactical and sales approach, as I can bring out the human part of the story rather than just the numbers. I feel that one of the great strengths of Out-of-Home is the interaction between the media and people in a real life setting. Since Admedia was focused on audiences and environments, I felt it was an excellent opportunity for me to speak to advertisers and provide the most relevant and interesting solutions.
- Admedia was founded in 1995. Are any of the original founders still with the company? Who are the current owners and how are they involved in the day-to-day operations?
Admedia is a privately owned business founded by Johnny Naggar. The business is run jointly by myself and Mick Tedder (Managing Director, Commercial and Operations) with the support of Johnny. It is fair to say that Johnny is a true entrepreneur, and has been hugely supportive to Mick and myself, as we move the business forward. A great example of this is Nexus, Admedia’s full-motion network at Motorway service stations, where we were all heavily involved and were empowered by Johnny to deliver a modern, innovative, dynamic advertising solution. Johnny is also a tremendous support from a sales perspective, where he is able to bring contacts and connections from his wider business dealings into Admedia. From a personal perspective, I always look forward to Johnny’s emails coming into my inbox, detailing all the campaigns he thinks we should be running!
- Admedia is active in both traditional Out-of-Home and Digital Out-of-Home. How close is it to becoming a 100% DOOH company? Why or why not?
As a proportion of our revenue, digital is becoming increasingly important to Admedia. We have seen this rapidly expand with the success of Nexus, which is the UK’s largest external network of full-motion, large-format digital screens. As we look to the future, we see digital as a natural area for growth, be that expanding our current Nexus network of 50 screens/locations, transitioning our classic inventory to digital or expanding into new synergetic environments.
- The company seems to have grown more quickly in recent years. To what do you attribute that?
Thanks for noticing! We have increasingly focused on offering multi-touchpoint solutions across Motorway Service Stations, an area that is unique to us as a media owner. With the millions of motorists using Motorway Services every week falling into key target categories attractive to advertisers such as SME, Families, Travel and Tourism, and Motoring, it was an obvious area in which to grow our business.
We launched Nexus with 16 sites in April, 2017, and have scaled up rapidly to now have 50 sites. It has been a step change for the business in how our advertising solutions are being perceived by advertisers, the industry and external companies. We had high expectations when we launched Nexus and it has exceeded all of them, allowing us to move Motorway Services further up the consideration list. Overall, I would say our growth has come from a consolidation of effort, focus, resource into an environment that was and is under-utilized as an OOH solution, as well as the development of sales opportunities across the Nexus network.
Excitingly, it feels that we are just at the beginning of this process and I feel there is huge potential in the Motorway Services as we look to the future.
- You were involved with the launch of three products prior to moving to your current position. How many digital products does Admedia now offer, and how many digital screens do you have offer of each type? Are any new products on the horizon?
As previously noted, our Nexus offering currently stands at 50 screens with the potential to roll out to further sites across the Motorway Service network. We also have the opportunity to digitize our existing 6- sheet portfolio of circa 1,400 units.
We also offer Admobile, a mobile digital solution that can be geo-targeted, audience targeted or key word targeted, depending on the clients’ requirements, and Kwik Fit TV, a full audio visual solution across over 700 Kwik Fit centres nationally.
With regards to expansion into new areas, we are looking at a number of opportunities where there is a natural synergy with our current environments. Digital would be the natural format for us to use. Watch this space!
- Of all your accomplishments in the DOOH sector with which you’ve been involved over the past eight years at Admedia, of what are you personally most proud and why?
It has to be the development and launch of the Nexus network. When the Board challenged Mick and I to develop the business, it was always the intention to deliver something that would redefine the position of Admedia in the marketplace, and from a personal perspective it was something I wanted to be proud of. Nexus has delivered both! When we did stand up and present the proposition, the positive reaction made the countless hours and thousands of miles driving up and down the country with Mick worthwhile. The very first formal presentation ended with someone asking if they could option it immediately, so I suspected we were on to a good thing! Every time I see the brilliant structure, delivering full motion creative from amazing blue chip clients, it continues to give me a huge sense of pride.
- Can Admedia’s Nexus network at Motorway Service areas be seen elsewhere? If not, will they be, and where? The Nexus are very attractive. What company designed and built the structures?
The design of the Nexus structure and the quality of the screen was hugely important to us as a business. As the Motorway Services have increased their investment in their infrastructure from retailers such as M&S and restaurants like Pizza Express to their Regus business lounges and connectivity, it was important that Nexus was part of that step up in the Motorway Service environment. The exclusive design of Nexus is based around allowing the advert to take centre stage and the structure to support that, rather than detract from our client’s messages. It was a bespoke design we created with our partners SIS to maximize its impact in the Motorway Service environment. As such, we don’t have any immediate plans to roll the Nexus structures beyond the Motorway Services.
- Whose Content Management System do you use for Nexus and your other digital products, and why did you choose them?
We use SCALA, one of the top CMS platforms for Digital Signage. As each site offers a bespoke solution to our clients, we find that SCALA allows for flexibility, be it on a site-by-site basis, different start and end dates, and day parts. It also allows us to push changes live immediately when there is an immediate activation. As we are encouraging our clients to use the screen as dynamically as possible, this capability is very important to us. An example of this was the birth of Prince Louis, where one of our clients was able to deliver a bespoke creative within two minutes of the announcement.
- Who measures your Nexus screens and what kind of data do you have to know whom they reach?
All our screens and 6-sheets are measured on Route, and we are able to supplement this information with significant data and insight from our landlord partners. As mentioned, we are the exclusive leaders in Motorway Service advertising and, as such, we have significantly increased our audience and environment research over the last couple of years. This has allowed us to identify key audiences, such as SME, and drive extensive revenues into OOH. Our next big project in 2019 will be around Alternative Fuel Vehicles, working directly with a number of automotive manufacturers. We will be providing market leading insight into this increasingly important market, and further consolidate our position as a must-have media for all motoring briefs. The flexibility of the technology means that we are increasingly looking at other data sources that are particularly relevant to the unique Motorway Services’ audience. Things like weather and traffic triggers become so much more relevant due to the clear location and direction our visitors are travelling. As you can imagine, this has increased our need for more localized data that can be instantly converted into a relevant creative.
- Can you tell us details about your most recent weather-related campaign? Is your interactivity feature on Nexus used often? Can you mention a couple of other examples?
Much like our full-motion capabilities, I don’t feel that advertisers have taken advantage enough of weather-related creatives in the Motorway Services. With huge numbers of holiday makers using the Services, especially during school holidays, the importance of weather in activity decision-making is huge but has only be used by a handful of clients. A good example was Blue Planet Aquarium, nominated as Digital Outdoor Campaign of the Year by DailyDOOH. It was able to take an insight into its challenge of the hot weather impacting on its footfall, and by linking its creative to the temperature, we were able to ensure the most relevant message was delivered to take advantage of the mindset. As a father of two children, I can see how this clever creative can take an idea and convert it into a must do on your staycation. Another good example was Highways England, which ran a rain-activated campaign to only display in wet conditions to remind motorists to account for the tougher road conditions so as to reduce traffic accidents.
- When did you launch Admobile? Please tell us about it and explain its reach. Can you give an example of an advertiser who has used it successfully?
Launched in 2016, Admobile has been an excellent addition to our portfolio. Admedia has always had a strong client direct culture, and one of the challenges we have is ensuring that we can deliver meaningful coverage in relevant areas for specific clients. Admobile adverts that appear as a scrolling bar on your phone as you browse, based on either your geographic location, your demographic information or your keyword searches allows us to complement our physical poster sites with broader coverage. For me, the fundamental challenge of OOH is proving direct call-to-action. We have found that by overlaying our poster footprint with a mobile solution, the two complement each other to deliver provable results to our clients. This accountability has helped improve our client retention rates and has provided a mid-campaign flexibility that encourages a more partnership approach between us and our clients. A good example of including Admobile as an additional touchpoint was with Vauxhall. It included Admobile, geo-targeted to the 136 Motorway Services, to work alongside Nexus, 6-sheets and A3 posters to promote the Vivaro Van. Serving 2.5 million impressions over the course of the campaign, Vauxhall were able to engage with its dual target audience of hard-to-reach SME decision makers and van drivers who, by definition, are frequently on the road. This contextual relevance saw Admobile perform five times more effectively than a standard mobile campaign, and added an extra layer of accountability to an incredibly successful campaign.
- You have a number of specific experiential products. Tell us about them and the types of advertisers that use them. Do many advertisers using them become repeat customers or become advertisers on your digital screens?
As the leaders in Motorway Service advertising, we spend a lot of time promoting the environment as a whole. Once a client has understood the value of the audience, it is important that we have the right formats and products to help influence our audience in the most effective way. With this in mind, we see experiential opportunities at the Motorway Services becoming increasingly important to us in the future. With an average dwell time of over 40 minutes, the Services provide an ideal environment for advertisers to engage with potential clients, be it new car launches being demonstrated in the car parks, to business-to-business targeting taking place in the main building. Our audiences are taking a break from their journey and have proven to be open to new services and experiences. Nexus has added another layer of flexibility to our offering: previously advertisers have had to book a two-week campaign to support a two-day promotion; now, with the digital flexibility of Nexus, we can mirror and amplify the experiential activity with exact-date media support, enhancing and maximizing performance for our clients.
- What are your views on programmatic buying? How are you are using it, if you are? Do you think it is more worthwhile for certain types of digital screens than others? Or for certain markets?
I am a massive fan of anything we can do to free up time and resource, as this will allow us more opportunity to speak to more clients about the opportunities offered by Admedia. We have found the increase of automation and the development of programmatic to be a difficult topic with which to come to grips. As a smaller player in the market, we didn’t feel we were in a position to develop our own systems in isolation, and have been waiting for a consolidated approach from the market. Over the last couple of years, we have met a number of businesses that were looking to provide a universal platform, and It has been a confusing time trying to understand what is actually happening. It does feel that there has been significant acceleration in this area, particularly in the last few months. We still have work to do to ensure that we can take advantage of the opportunities that automation and programmatic will bring. As the only Media Owner actively selling Motorway Service advertising, I believe that it will always be our responsibility to promote our environment. Whether this is face-to-face, on the phone or via technology, it is incumbent on us to ensure that we are providing the right information to allow clients to make the best informed decisions about their advertising choices. As it stands now, I am still unsure of the best way of doing this via a programmatic route, but I expect to be able to answer this with much more certainty over the coming months!
- You worked for several other companies prior to Admedia. What learning did you take from those that you’ve been able to apply in your current position?
One of the best parts of the job is being given an insight into a variety of different business. Understanding their challenges, what they are trying to achieve and the market in which they operate means that every meeting is different and you are always learning.
The biggest lesson I learned was at Teletext. With a keen eye for the future, I was able to sidestep the passing fad of ‘the internet’ and sell the Lego block graphics and the extensive pallet of six, count them, six different colours! Selling a tough proposition like Teletext really demonstrated to me the value of relevance: not trying to be all things to all people, but focusing on key areas where we could make a difference, whilst ensuring that presentations were personalized to the clients I was targeting, rather than a catch-all credential presentation. It amazes me that, even now, we receive praise for delivering a bespoke presentation and idea for a client, due to the huge number of generic presentations that clients sit through. The benefit of selling an environment like Motorway Services is that you have core strengths that you can focus on and identify the clients for which you are most relevant. I try and make sure my sales team understands that I don’t expect them to convert every client, but I do expect them to identify the most relevant clients and focus their energy and resources in the most productive way.
- And what do you see as your particular strength in the DOOH market? Please explain.
When we were looking at the potential of a digital network, we were determined to avoid the ‘build it and they will book’ model that can exist in OOH. We looked to the market to try and understand and implement best practice. That is why we installed webcams and clear play-out reports to deliver transparent proof-of-play reports; we invested in the latest technology to ensure that the screens look amazing in any weather conditions; we focused on the design of the structure to complement and support the adverts; and by building a stand-alone structure, we could ensure uniformity of artwork to minimize creative costs. All these things are important, but we are fortunate that the Motorway Network gave us two unique areas of strength that allowed us to ensure we were bringing something new to the market and a product that would enhance what was already available. All 50 of our screens allow genuine full-motion creative. Research has shown how much more effective full-motion is in comparison to static creative. I believe that this will become an increasingly important part of client requests in the future as they look to utilize digital assets in a wider, brand safe environment. DOOH has developed on a city-by-city basis. What the Motorway Service network allows us to do is to provide one uniform package solution to reach the top 50 conurbations in the country. While different media owners expand and compete in key cities, we can provide a nationwide coverage that brings the digital schedule together.
- What are your plans for Admedia’s expansion? Is there a lot more opportunity for it in the UK or do you foresee the company growing beyond the UK in the next year or two?
The focus over the next couple of years is going to continue to be UK focused. We see the continued rollout of Nexus and continued expansion into digital across other elements within our portfolio as the next advancement for the business. We feel that broader macro changes in things such as alternative fuels will also allow us to expand our offering in synergetic areas, meaning we can offer a broader range of solutions to our clients.
- Admedia is active mainly in the transport and leisure categories. Can you foresee its growth into another vertical? If so, which and when?
We don’t think in categories such as Transport or Leisure. Rather, our focus has always been audience led. We are always looking to expand into opportunities that allow us to target our key audiences such as Motorists, Families and SMEs in a compelling and impactful way.
- You have a Drive Panel which helps you gain insights on motorists stopping at the Motorway Service areas and Kwik Fit vehicle service centres. Please tell us about it: who is on it; how it works; and its value.
As mentioned earlier, we are continually looking to further understand our audience. The Drive Panel is an effective way to reach out to our Motorway Service audience and get a feel and understanding of its members’ thoughts on a variety of topics. The panel consists of circa 500 motorists that have been recruited via our own media across the Motorway Services. We have successfully used it to get a deeper understanding of the panellists’ broad views on topics as diverse as electric vehicles, insurance and staycations.
It has also been used on an individual client basis to ask specific questions that are particularly relevant to them. This can range from views on new product launches to an understanding of brand perspective. The third main area in which it is used is as a creative resource. If a client wants a viewpoint on the most effective messaging, our panellists can respond quickly with their thoughts. From my perspective the main value of the Drive Panel is its ability to let clients think about the environment and stress test their thoughts to ensure the most effective use of our media. By being able to do this before, during and after a campaign, it allows a client to get feedback immediately and make any amendments required to increase effectiveness. This becomes particularly relevant with the ability of Nexus to update creative immediately, ensuring that clients can optimize performance during the campaign.
- Also, please tell us why you launched Admedia’s own Campaign Awards, including how it works; who judges; and its value.
As with any advertising, if the creative is produced with the environment in mind, the results will be more relevant and, as such, more likely to have a positive impact. With this in mind, we launched the Admedia Campaign Awards to recognize those clients and creatives that have maximized the creative opportunity our formats provide within our environments. Our Awards run twice a year and the creatives are selected by the Admedia leadership team. The shortlisted creatives are then voted for on our website. Where it has been very helpful is when it comes to us being able to help clients consider their creative to identify what a wider audience considers best practice, giving the clients the best chance of delivering the most effective creative.
- In the past, the U.K. has been the leader in digital out of home. Tell us how you see it in the future. Will Brexit affect its growth in the European market? What role will the emergence of China as a leader in technological advances have for DOOH? In general, how do you see the future for Admedia and for the DOOH industry as a whole?
If you can find anyone that can confidently predict the impact of Brexit on anything, they are a better person than me!
From a broader perspective, I think the future of Admedia and the DOOH industry are interlinked. We are all looking to work collaboratively with our agency specialists and creative partners to ensure that the most impactful and effective advertising is delivered for our clients – be that by ensuring the creatives are relevant to the environment and audience; ensuring that technology that actually adds value to the customer experience is delivered in a scalable way; and that data and insight can be utilized into programming to ensure the most optimized campaigns can be delivered for clients. It is my belief that, as these innovations continue, environments such as Motorway Services, with a captive and engaged audience in a high dwell time area, will be ideally positioned to convert these improvements into successful campaigns for clients.
Phil will be presenting in London on Thursday May 16 at the European Out of Home Media Summit . Phil kicks off the afternoon with a presentation ‘‘Accelerate or Stay Static’‘ where he will share, warts and all, his journey from the washroom to the motorway.
London Digital Signage Week  takes place May 13-17, 2019 and as with its counterpart in New York, the week is for anyone involved with digital signage and interested in retail, employee communications, smart cities, digital out of home and of course digital signage!