This month, in the CEO Spotlight, we welcome Raúl Nuñez, COO, ViuOne, San Salvador, El Salvador
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I worked for Philip Morris International for 27 years in different countries of Central America and in the Dominican Republic. The last two positions I held at PMI were as marketing director for Central America and as general manager of PMI’s affiliated company in Guatemala.
I was exposed to digital signage first by a friend from Philip Morris and then later on by another friend who previously worked at Leo Burnett Miami. However, it was not until I attended ‘The Third Annual Building Your Successful Digital Signage Business’ in November, 2007, in Chicago and later on ‘The Digital Signage Expo’ in Las Vegas, in February, 2008, that I began structuring a business model for shopping centers.
Coming from a multinational culture, from the beginning I contemplated covering Central America, starting in El Salvador, my home country.
have much background on you before you sort of ‘came out of the woodwork’ with the public announcement that ViuOne had chosen Aerva as its software partner for your network. I do know you worked for Phillip Morris International. Tell us about your background and how you got into the digital out-of-home sector.
- What are some of the things you learned along the way that you are now applying to ViuOne? In what area do you feel you are strong and in what area do you wish you had more knowledge and/or experience?
First of all, you need a trustworthy software partner like Aerva. Second, you need to shop around and select a top brand of large format displays, like Samsung.
For my third step, I presented my business model to potential partners, who later on shared my vision and enhanced it. One of them, Alex Dutriz, an ex-PMI and former marketing manager of PMI’s affiliated company in El Salvador, is now working with us as commercial director.
I felt strong in marketing, but from the start, I wished that I had known more technical aspects of the business. To overcome this, before becoming operational, I hired, part-time, a knowledgeable IT technician and, later, a graphic animator. Both were instrumental for start-up.
- Tell us a little about the DOOH world in Central America. You launched your network of digital displays in shopping malls last September in El Salvador, and are already expanding into the Dominican Republic. Why the Dominican Republic so quickly? Is the El Salvador market saturated already? Is it a limited market, or is there a lot of competition? Or are you trying to get control of the whole Central American market ahead of others? Or?
ViuOne was the first digital signage company in El Salvador – present now in the two largest shopping malls. Since you need scale to be relevant to advertisers, we are planning to expand to two more in the near future.
We are moving fast to the Dominican Republic because the opportunity, the timing and the right partner were there. My father-in-law, who passed away last year, owned an outdoor company in the Dominican Republic – ‘Flamingo’ – and he, knowing my whereabouts with ViuOne, wanted to partner with me, in his home country.
He was aware that competition between shopping malls was increasing and both new and older ones where looking for digital signage companies who could add value to their operations.
We will be present in Santo Domingo, in two top shopping malls, by mid-year.
- I believe you recently agreed to make a strategic alliance with another Digital Signage company from Guatemala. Who is this? Tell us about this alliance and what each of you are bringing to the table. Do you expect to make further alliances, as well?
We have agreed with Venta Visual, a digital signage company in Guatemala, to form a strategic alliance using ViuOne as the umbrella to commercialize both mall networks. Back office will be done from El Salvador, following ViuOne’s business model.
We are bringing to the table our expertise in marketing and our vision of becoming a regional company.
Yes, we expect to make further alliances and partnerships with local entrepreneurs in the rest of Central American countries and the Caribbean.
- If I’m not mistaken, there are seven countries that make up Central America, and some of them have been faced with extreme poverty and/or political upheaval in the relatively recent past. Are there any countries where you do not plan to establish your network? How is DOOH accepted in each? And do you need to show more than Spanish on screens in any of these?
In 2010, we will focus operationally in El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
Despite political and social upheavals, shopping malls are ‘secure islands’ where people visit not just for shopping but for entertainment. Consequently, despite economic and political conditions, we are focusing on researching malls that wish to make upgrades and/or new ones under construction.
Excluding Belize, Spanish is the language spoken in all countries. In Belize, there are about 10 languages, the most prominent being Spanish, Kriol, English and Garfuna.
- You have initially put in 63” Samsung plasma screens mounted in vertical displays displaying videos from advertisers and sponsors, as well as other content including news and weather. Have you plans for other size screens and displays and for locales other than shopping malls?
ViuOne expansion is considering the use of Samsung’s 50” and 63” plasma screens mounted in vertical displays coupled with Samsung’s 46” LCD touch screens and video walls.
So far, our business model is based on digital signage at shopping malls. We believe in expanding vertically not horizontally, and that is one of the reasons behind our regional expansion. On the other hand, multinationals see and manage Central America as one country.
- What made you decide to choose Aerva software for your displays? What does it offer? You only launched ViuOne in 2009 but were quoted as saying “Over the years, Aerva has provided us with technology, know-how and operational guidance, which has made our ad business a successful venture.” When, where and how did you work with Aerva before?
I first met Aerva’s CEO, Sanjay Manandhar, in Chicago in November, 2007. We then met again at the Digital Signage Expo in 2008 and at another digital signage convention in Orlando in 2009.
We decided to use Aerva because it is a powerful and user-friendly software. In addition, Sanjay and his staff have been always there to assist us at any time, before, during and after we became operational. They have excellent technical and people skills.
- Tell us about the design of your screens and the kind of content. Who is advertising on them? How is it looped? What kind of other content is on the screens and how quickly can it be changed? How and from where is it managed? And targeted?
A total of 40% of air-time content is what we call ‘added value’ for consumers. At no cost, we adapt and air information about events and activities taking place at the shopping mall.
In addition, we have partnered with the leading newspaper, La Prensa Gráfica, so as to include in our scheduling all sort of news, online, adapted exclusively for the use of ViuOne. The above is complemented with horoscopes, trivia, weather, etc..
Excluding the online news, scheduling of all ‘value added’ content is changed on a weekly basis.
Advertising comprises 60% of airtime. Most of the commercials aired are in 30-second format, despite the fact that we recommend shorter ones, like 15-seconds.
Scheduling is and will be managed from our home office in El Salvador.
- Who sells ViuOne’s advertising? Do you have your own sales staff or do you use external reps and/or aggregators? Are there many agencies in Central America or are you dealing mainly with U.S.-based agencies?
ViuOne has its own sales staff, but the commercial director and I are involved in making appointments and follow-ups with clients and advertising agencies. Globalization is here, and most of the ad agencies are affiliates of International ones.
- Are there any special approaches that advertisers or individuals wanting to deal with the Central American market should take at both the business and consumer levels? Or any specific cultural differences or customs of which they should be aware? Or are the seven countries so diverse that one must approach each separately rather than considering the Central American market as a whole?
International companies consider the Central American market as a whole. Excluding Belize, all are Spanish speaking countries, sharing the same history, background and religion. Even though the countries are small, technology and globalization per se are present.
There are some differences worth mentioning, though:
In Guatemala, half of the population are indigenous who still speak their own native languages and live by their own customs. It is like having two countries in one.
Costa Rica is the Switzerland of Central America. It has no army, and people are very proud of their solid democracy.
Panama has a strong economy with a high standard of living. It is more than a Canal, and has the best shopping malls in the area.
Nicaragua, is well behind the rest.
Honduras prides itself on having two capital cities: San Pedro Sula, which drives the economy, and Tegucigalpa, the political side.
Finally, El Salvador, the smallest country in the area and the most densely populated. Its people like to think of themselves as industrious and hard working.