This month, in the CEO Spotlight, we welcome Rob Gorrie, Founding President, Adcentricity in New York.
- You worked mainly in the online advertising and Web development business prior to Adcentricity. What drew you to the DOOH sector and what did you learn from your previous positions that you are able to apply to Adcentricity?
My family owns a point-of-purchase advertising and merchandising company, Gorrie Marketing, that was started in 1882 and which deals in below the line, point-of-purchase for many of the major brands and retailers, including Chrysler, RIM and Benjamin Moore. In 125 years, you learn a thing or two about the below the line business and what really helps folks cross the finish line on the sales front across all industries. I grew up in the retail business and understand the ins and outs of retail and place based marketing very well. That being said, I didn’t join the family company as I’ve always been attracted to Digital, so, out of university, I started a Digital agency dealing with software development, online advertising, digital marketing, mobile marketing and more, for major brands like LG, Sprint and Unilever – ultimately using Digital to effect results for my clients in the best way possible.
My father and I have been talking about technology in retail environments and the advent of Digital in retail becoming attractive for brands since 1995. In fact, my father started a ‘Pointcast at Retail’ program in 1997 for convenience stores – long before most people even thought about it. After selling my Digital agency after almost nine years, and starting to do some digital touchpoint consulting about four years ago, Digital OOH was a natural transition as I saw many of the same points of pain that affected online advertising in the Digital OOH marketplace. I know the complexities of the retail/place based landscape as well as digital touch-point marketing, and thought I may be able to assist brands and agencies with some of my experience, adoption and use. I know how effective this form of media can be, so wanted to help extol its virtues.
Finally, I was pretty sure, when I was first analyzing the Digital OOH advertising medium, that it would factor in as a major future initiative in supporting what I saw was a shift in brand attitudes towards more localized ‘shopper marketing’ efforts and ‘digital marketing in the real world’. It just seemed a natural shift point for ad spends and obviously an opportunity for a new type of company.
- When you have so many venue categories and more than 70 sub-categories (venue types), how do you help advertisers target? Do you work with media planners, or do they give you a ‘list’, so to speak, of what they want and leave it to you to choose for them?
It’s a lot more scientific than a list hand-off, to be sure! We work hand-in-hand with the advertiser or agency. Sometimes we are working directly with the advertiser and sometimes it is with its agency – the agency being more prevalent.
On the planning and strategy side, we work very closely with these teams when discussing Digital OOH as a potential campaign support pillar: what the medium can offer; creative ways to use it; integrating with other technologies; adopting and integrating with the over-arching campaign ideation; etc. . We discuss the goals of the campaign, options and the target audience and target behaviors and attitudes. Out of that process comes high-level concepts and opportunities with broad-stroke budget numbers for markets and categories that make sense for whom the planners are looking to touch and influence. We work with planners for ideation and top-line opportunities and budgets, but that’s just step one. If concepts and plans are approved, we then get down to business with the buying teams who are right in the thick of the business and are essential to the ultimate finished plan with the best results for the client.
Once it comes to the buyers, after plans have been vetted and approved, we are then re-engaged through the use our AdVenue platform to further hone in on the right buy for the advertiser. We work quite closely with the buyers on demographic targeting and venue category appropriateness for the needs of the campaign and the reach required, as they know their clients needs best on the execution front. Our platform has been built to accommodate the six major points of pain that buyers face in the Digital OOH business in both buying and executing: Planning (understanding what you’re buying by audience and potential results); Buying (one total buy versus 90 individual buys); Creative (normalizing and reducing what is really required to streamline efforts); Distribution (one company to engage to send your creative assets and to ensure it’s launched); Reporting (single rolled up source of affidavits); and Billing (one bill for accounts payable).
The buyers evaluate our initial recommendations to get the ‘perfect Digital OOH buy’ for their plan objectives. Statistically, plans change at least eight times and we can effect those changes in seconds. Can you imagine doing a buy on 30 networks? For an agency buyer just to get quotes and then refine them to their clients’ needs that would be 240 things you have to evaluate for a single buy! All told, we reduce three weeks worth of work to 30 minutes so that buyers can concentrate on the bigger picture and execute more smoothly with more transparency.
- Your Web site says that the Adcentricity solution is not intended to replace existing network sales initiatives or to represent the network’s brand. So how do you reconcile that with your own sales organization? And does it affect the cost for the client?
We work with networks as true partners and we ease the ‘pains’ of planning/buying DOOH by delivering a means for media buyers and brands to consider our network partners as a part of a large, powerful and manageable media opportunity. ADCENTRICITY augments the network’s sales teams by providing them with another revenue stream.
Ultimately, the more advanced buyers on the front lines buy one of three ways, depending on the needs of the client, campaign or scope of the plan: 1.) by specific network partner (where there’s an exact fit); 2.) by channel or category (eg, all grocery stores or all doctors’ offices) 3.) by audience (any network with the correct demographic profile fitting the campaign needs). Obviously, the sweet spot for us is on demographic-based buys which fall into many of the needs of the brands. Because of how we work with ADVenue and our relationships with our Network partners. we can deliver more value to the agency for their purchase.
While ‘channel conflict’ exists in every single medium out there, we do our best to minimize it or manage it. The agency buyers know very well about most of the networks out there and how they need or want to buy them for a particular campaign, and they will make the call. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to buy through ADCENTRICITY as the needs are so specific or there are less than 10 phone calls to make. Other times, the campaign is just so massive and has 50+ networks involved (or even 15), making the sheer volume of work to get the deal done unbelievable. Either way, both a direct sales force and ADCENTRICITY’s sales force help satisfy the differing buying ‘needs’ at the agency and are both absolutely necessary.
To specifically answer your question around why we don’t ‘rep’ a Network’s ‘brand’, 1) ADCENTRICITY is looking to grow the entire Digital OOH medium and, as such, our position in the ecosystem is to speak to the benefits of the entire medium or most appropriate pieces of the medium in our sales efforts on campaigns. Obviously network names come up later in the process as a matter of transparency, but using this medium intelligently as a planner or buyer is about understanding and evaluating all options, quickly, and not just eight or 10 companies. If you ‘rep’ by company, you take away from the power of the whole medium at the start. 2.) We don’t feel it’s a smart idea for networks to give up control of their brands and have others speaking on their behalf without knowing how they are being presented. Their brands are part of their value, both in an equity sense and in a sales sense – even in a consumer presentation sense. It would be presumptuous of us to walk in thinking that we’re the best at positioning their ‘brand’ to the world. We help present their venues in the context of the campaign but not necessarily their brands. Because we’re sensitive to these facts, we’re careful and strategic in how we present ourselves and others in the market – hence no Network ‘brands’ on our Web site.
- Your Web site also says that you can try/ access/ etc., venues all across North America? Does that include Mexico? How many screens do you offer in Canada and, if applicable, Mexico? Are you doing anything specifically to grow these markets?
Currently, although we’ve been approached several times to expand into Mexico, the United States and Canada are where our focus lies at the moment.
The Canadian market currently has almost 70,000 screens with the recent addition of a few large Canadian Network Partners. We obviously spend a lot of time working with emerging networks to help spur mature growth in Canada, and I know we’ll see some good supply growth through 2010 in that market.
Canada is definitely a bigger market than some would give it credit for based on supply!
- There seems to be a trend of consolidation in the DOOH field. How is that affecting your business? How has your growth and profit level been this year compared to 2008?
Our business remains strong. We continue to grow and have brought on a number of new networks in the US and Canada and continue to work with new advertisers. Some new campaigns we have recently executed were with Samsung, Evian, Verizon and Bank of America.
On the consolidation front, this has actually worked to our benefit in some cases where new network partners have joined creating a larger opportunity, or a strong network partner enhances its value by diversifying its opportunities for a brand or agency.
While I won’t disclose exact numbers, I will say that we are up 650% over last year, and large deals are still coming in for Q4. Next year is shaping up in a similar fashion.
- How long do you think it will take before DOOH will be considered, if not traditional media, at least part of advertisers’ and agencies’ media plan considerations on a regular basis. Can you envision any way to speed up the process?
As consumer behavior patterns and media consumption habits continue to change and more people continue to spend more time out of their home, DOOH will continue to thrive. DOOH delivers advertisers ROI and delivers highly effective hyper targeting by geography, demography, channel, customized venue mash-ups and a seemingly endless amount of flexibility in how to approach a DOOH campaign strategy. It fits in with how marketers need to find and attract their potential customers, and so will continue to grow on those facets alone.
In terms of new digital plays, we believe the digital OOH medium could also have a huge impact within the retail environment, known as shopper marketing. Digital displays within retail environments will increase dramatically. By nature this will automatically put brands into a DOOH mind set, in working to find out how brands can optimize this effort beyond the walls of the store and an immediate investment into DOOH content strategies – which will bring the space to be a more prevalent consideration at the creative agency level.
With regards to Digital OOH becoming ‘traditional’, the Internet has been around for 15 years and IT isn’t considered traditional yet! Certain agencies are adopting Digital OOH much faster than others, doing six- or seven-digit deals for their clients every month. Others are sitting largely on the sidelines, occasionally doing five-digit deals, but for the most part staying removed. Like anything that’s new, Digital OOH has to go through a typical adoption bell curve and it’s still early days. The trick is simply finding out which agencies want Digital OOH to be a part of their stable ‘now’ and spend good time with them. To juxtapose, there are still creative agencies here in New York who have never done an Internet ad campaign. nor do they ever want to – to each their own. JWT Chicago tried to stay true to its TV roots and had to close this year because of it. Some will adopt and some won’t. The best you can do is educate and try and demonstrate the value to them and their clients.
Speeding up the process is all about education, evangelism and most specifically, client centric results from programs like ADCENTRICITY’s Research Lite.
- What are some of trends that you are seeing, and what new developments do you think that we are likely to see in the DOOH field in the near- and mid-future?
I think it is going to be the combination of having multiple platforms working together. Integrating Digital OOH with online initiatives via seamless technology which we provide behind the scenes provides a completely connected set of mediums that involves Internet (including social), Mobile and Digital OOH media that all speak to each other. i.e. what you do on your phone affects a Facebook site which then updates an ad in our network which is targeted to the exact demographic you are looking to reach. These media all compliment each other.
I believe these types of programs will become very popular in the next few years, especially as smart phones become more mainstream. We want to help our partners get there faster and safer. It’s really a ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach to business that allows agencies and brands to dip their toes in by using turn-key Mobile, Internet or Social programs that are built to support very specific functions that benefit retailers and brands.
- You are from Canada now heading a major company in New York. Canada seems a little slow in building the DOOH sector. Do you think that it’s the Canadian climate, the spread out population, a lack of investment, or some other factors that are contributing to that?
Canada actually did have a large head start going back a few years and grew some of the first network types early. There is still a large group of Canadians in this business on all fronts. A number of things stalled it but it had a spurt some years ago and has hit a plateau. Some of this is finance-related. Other components are revenue-related. Based on what I’m seeing, strong growth will likely resume mid-to-late 2010. Interestingly, because DOOH has been around on a nationwide basis longer in Canada then in the US, many major agencies are more aware of it and accepting of it in that country than here. Canada makes up for a full 50% of this year’s revenue increases to date, which has been great for the company and the network partners we work with there. It shows a healthy appetite for the medium at a stage which is further ahead than some agencies in the US.
Having the Canadian market accepting to the medium has also allowed us to engage clients in the Canadian market and use the results to encourage their US cousins to try the same much faster.
- I noticed on LinkedIn that you are a ‘concept developer’ on the eternal hunt for the next rush. What was your last ‘rush’ and what might give you the next?
My last ‘rush’ was a Software-As-Service platform for retail that allowed manufacturers like LG to understand how to leverage their investments in training and incentive programs, monetize them and get better performance out of their sales force like Best Buy employees. It worked quite well and we had some major clients on board and 10s of thousands of users.
As for my next rush – it would seem I have my hands full with ADCENTRICITY right now so I don’t think I need to distract myself with what I’ll do next quite yet. While ADCENTRICITY is poised to grow quite substantially, there is still an enormous amount of work to do to help grow the industry.
I do, however, seem to be a sucker for punishment in exploring bleeding edge mediums like Internet, Mobile and DOOH in their early days, so if another medium shoots up, you’ll likely find me there in the future.
- While Adcentricity offers regular research, you also recently offered Research Lite. How is it working so far? Can you give some examples of how it is being used?
Research Lite has been received very well by the market place. Metrics are probably the biggest challenge facing the space. Brands want to be able to see the connection between DOOH and a consumer response. We have seen that through research studies, Digital out-of-home media has been proven to be very effective advertising vehicle for both brand advertising and retail efforts. A recent campaign actioned by Samsung (wireless) on an Adcentricity planned campaign resulted in a 49% increase in un-aided brand awareness. We wanted to build on these findings when we announced Research Lite. Normally research initiatives are syndicated programs that involve several brands, or are a major undertaking and investment by a brand across multiple disciplines. Being able to activate a research study on an individual medium, particularly through a single source aggregator, presents a complete solution for agencies and brands to initiative and evaluate campaigns effectively and efficiently.
We launched Research Lite just over a month ago and we’re already onto our fifth program with many more lined up to go shortly. The insight we now have on this space is invaluable to our agencies and brands, and a lot of the results are helping to guide brands to increase investments in the DOOH space for 2010.