Interview With Kelsey Group CEO

Dylan Jones, Jones Digital Media

Berkeley, CA- I’m sitting at a table at a Tully’s coffee store waiting to talk to the CEO of the Kelsey group, Neal Polachek. I want to get his perspective on how his company is approaching the digital out of home space and what recommendations they’re giving their clients.

Before Neal walks in, I take my espresso and grab a window table to look at the colorful tapestry of life around these parts. There’s a RippleTV screen tucked high in the far corner of the café, playing some colorful content and scrolling news about the latest Lindsey Lohann train wreck that nobody else in the café seems to be taking any notice of.

The table, I realize, has a built in screen (covered with a coffee-stained slab of Perspex) and keeps asking me, very politely to touch it “here”.  I dutifully comply, after all it’s what I do, and I’m curious as to what’s on offer.

The interface is an early 90’s web page design with a dodgy dial up connection. All this wizardry is brought to me by SF Gate, (the online adjunct of the San Francisco Chronicle), the screen proudly proclaims and I wonder if this is not just another symptom of the woes suffered by that ailing newspaper!

This is pretty serendipitous, I think to myself, I’m here to talk digital outdoor media with a leading expert in local media and I’m surrounded by it, even in the student and hippy-haven of North Berkeley.

First, some background. The Kelsey Group is the leading advisory firm covering the local media community.  They help their clients navigate the increasingly challenging waters of the local media marketplace both in the US and globally. I’d heard they were in the process of taking a long, hard look at the digital out of home space and wanted to quiz them on why now.

I’d also been impressed by Neal’s forthright manner and clear thinking when it comes to evaluating media opportunities…

Neal Polachek– We view the current state of advertising as being in rapid transformation as advertisers seek more and more accountability for their ad dollars and media companies work harder and harder to deliver contextually relevant advertising that delivers measurable performance.

DJ– And you’re now looking at the digital out of home space to deliver that relevance?

NP– Well, the digital out of home space is intriguing to us because as we view the media space through our unique “local” lens, we see digital out of home as yet, one more important platform for advertisers to message their existing and potential customers.

DJ– What kinds of questions are your clients asking you about the space?

NP– The most important question clients are asking about is when this market will really ramp up.  Since today there are so many players in the space, there’s been a bit of a hesitation on the part of advertisers to really leverage the opportunity.  In addition, many national advertisers are waiting a more comprehensive network offering which would enable a more scaled media buy while still offering the ability to target geographically.

DJ– Why do you think your clients are asking for more information on DOOH now?

NP– While DOOH is yet one more media platform, it may well be one of the better platforms in reaching deeply in the local markets with real time messages and offers.  I certainly expect that we’ll see a day in the not too distant future when a consumer will be altered via a DOOH display that good tickets are still available to a local event and that this week’s sandwich special is almost sold out.  DOOH has the potential to deliver real time messaging. While mobile offers this too, there are more privacy issues related to mobile than DOOH.

DJ– What aspects of the DOOH space do you think have real potential? Retail? Interactivity? Localization?

NP– I think that all three have great potential.  Retail is certainly a sector where much has developed since PRN entered the space almost a decade ago.  There’s lots more to play out in retail as it relates to moving products. In terms of local and interactivity, this is where there’s significant future opportunity.

DJ– Do you think DOOH is like the Internet a decade ago? For instance, everybody thinks they should be part of it, but don’t know quite how to play yet?

NP– DOOH is in some ways just another Internet advertising platform, just like mobile is – DOOH depends on an IP distribution platform to be successful so that meaningful content and relevant messages can be pushed to individual locations – there, DOOH is the part of the Internet advertising eco-system already.

DJ– What’s the biggest challenge you see out there for DOOH today and what advice would you give to the industry right now?

NP– I think we’re going to see a continued expansion of players in the DOOH space for maybe another 12 months – then we’d expect a number of players to push for consolidation so that national advertisers have the necessary reach via DOOH to matter and local advertiser can be sold via larger national selling organizations.

DJ– Thanks for your time, Neal.

As Neal leaves to navigate his way through the street musicians and Green Peace activists, I’m left wondering how the future of DOOH will play out.  If media buyers are already finding it frustrating negotiating the multiple offerings, what happens when more networks come on-line and new venues are developed? Consolidation seems inevitable and is already happening with the Danoo/NCM/Ideacast merger. 

The likes of Adcentricity and SeeSaw Networks seem to get the problem with their cross-network placements and aggregation services, but still it’s a minefield out there for media-buyers and advertisers alike.

I turn back to my ‘Interactive table top’ and tap on the movie trailer link.  A few minutes pass before a message alerts me it’s unable to connect.  So, I order another coffee, check out the RippleTV screen and see if I can find it in me to care about who Britney’s dating today and if Lady GaGa is actually a bloke from Hobooken who’s known as Derek to his family. 

Poker face?  In this climate, looks like we’re all going to need one.

5 Responses to “Interview With Kelsey Group CEO”

  1. jim simpson Says:

    It is so frustrating that a “local DOOH” industry recognized leader is not more realistic about the future. How can anybody speak with substance about what might happen in 12 months when locally…all over the US anyway…there IS no local DOOH? Dylan, with all respect, what are you thinking?

    This is an advertising (revenue source) media that reminds me of the beginning of the print industry that took a century to wind up. Sure, DOOH will be faster, but is anybody really looking at how few screens are up and the even fewer models that have proven ROI?

    To think of speaking of consolidation or success in terms of less than 5 years out sounds bizarre to me. In my humble opinion we need many more local publishers, venues and advertisers that have successful business models before regional or national advertisers are really going to pay attention.

    Until the local retailer or restaurant or public venue sees DOOH “product offerings” as another daily, necessary and dynamic business opportunity that then must be addressed, we haven’t done our job.

    Respectfully, Jim S.

  2. Dylan Jones Says:

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for your comments, I think it’s important we have these debates.
    WIthout speaking for Neal, I don’t think he would call himself a “local DOOH” industry leader. His company are experts in “local media” and are looking at DOOH for their clients (which is a good thing).

    I’m no industry analyst just a creative guy who needs to understand what’s going on in the space so I can better serve my clients. Unless I’m misunderstanding your perception of “local”, which is entirely possible, your comment about there being “no local DOOH” seems bizarre. If I can buy an ad on my local deli screen promoting my latest artworks at a small San Francisco gallery, how much more local does it need to get?

  3. Neal Says:

    Jim and Dylan,

    I do think we’ll see consolidation in the next 5 years. For this industry to grow there will need to be standards across DOOH platforms – otherwise – the national advertiser will never spend any money. At the same time, local advertising re-sellers – e.g. ReachLocal, Yellow Page companies, perhaps TV and radio sales channels – will begin exploring re-seller agreements with the DOOH networks because the DOOH networks drive any scale at the local level for advertising.

    Happy to continue the debate Jim or Dylan.

  4. Jim Simpson Says:

    Gentlemen, comments appreciated. “No local DOOH” is a fact in the midwest and little is seen excluding bars and some coffee shops…in much of the midwest…is what I’m alluding to.

    ReachLocal and yellow book ad advertisers is exciting to think about. I halted my own local roll out to refocus on building a network of a substantive base of local advertisers and I’m close…the largest association of chambers of commerce…34K businesses. It’s taken until the last month to get them to the table and the route has been circuitous at best.

    I believe we can make a case for aggregated groups of local businesses that understand their unique opportunity to become self-published on their own network. If we succeed we won’t need VC or any out of network participation.

    Thanks for letting me vent and not treating me like a bomb going off…I know that 3 years doesn’t compare to the time others have devoted.

    Jim Simpson

  5. Ilya Spekhov Says:

    There are dozens of local dooh networks but no national. We have two-NYC and Toronto. But there aren’t many ways of measurable advertising that’s for sure.
    And the fact that, at the moment, we have 2 local networks in 2 major cities on east coast seems to be a very big problem for media agencies. Approaching them becomes very challenging since they aren’t used to target specific markets. Agencies are used to buy nationally. I hear that every day “you have a great network but you are not national”. So, consolidation will come soon and companies will grow and become national players.

Leave a Reply