Symphony Is Free And It’s In Beta

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

We spent Monday afternoon in the bright confines of the Ayuda Media Systems‘ offices in Old Montreal to learn more about its products and plans for its BMS, BMS Digital, the planning tool it developed for the Digital Place-based Advertising Association, and especially for Symphony – the latter to be launched in mid-to-late January 2011.

But first a note about the offices and the people: What a nice, pleasant group they are! Some working in open areas, others in glass-enclosed spaces, their offices are centred by a kitchen/playroom where jars of candy and various games allow a chance to eat, chat, exchange ideas and simply relax. Further, each of the staff of 20 – mostly computer engineers – has two or three monitors and an iPad!

“I wanted to make it a fun place to work,” says Andreas Soupliotis, president and CEO. “I remember working in the early days at Microsoft when it was such a fun place and I wanted to recreate some of that same atmosphere.”

We were at Ayuda to learn more about Symphony, the planning and buying tool for both traditional and digital out-of-home advertising being launched as a free product in mid-late January. Currently being Beta tested by three companies (two traditional, one digital), it will give pretty much everything one will need to buy an effective advertising campaign in OOH/DOOH, including CPMs, insertion orders, (reach and frequency for traditional OOH, developed working with the Traffic Audit Bureau) and much more.

Further, it will be customizable for individual agencies, including some mutually-agreed-upon enhancements – all for free – “unless they want something really far-out and weird,” says Soupliotis.

We tried it out, to buy a pretend campaign by age, gender, target, and other variables, learning what third-party measured network screens would reach the audience required and in what cities, etc.. Our thoughts: simple, fast, effective, and one heck of a lot easier than the old spread sheet method.

“It’s easy-peasy, like buying online,” said Soupliotis.

The planning part of Symphony is pretty much as launched at the DPAA conference in October – see our Nov. 1, 2010 article here.

But how does Ayuda hope to monetize what is essentially a free product? Aha, there’s the rub! Ayuda’s team hopes that Symphony will be the catalyst for networks to consider using BMS and BMS Digital for the value-added offerings of these platforms.

BMS, already in use with some 300,000 billboards, is an Enterprise Resource Planning platform that allows digital and traditional out of home companies to operate more efficiently and make smarter business decisions. It includes such functionality as proposal generation, invoicing, contract management, occupancy analysis, business intelligence, financial reporting, lease calculations, charting, mapping and more (including Eyes On for traditional OOH)

BMS Digital, currently in use by Zoom Media and with additional contracts about to be signed, extends BMS to handle digital management, CPMs, the ability to check availabilities, health monitoring of networks, rate cards and more. It also includes a a cross-platform digital signage player, running on Windows or Linux PCs, that pulls content from the BMS Cloud.

A neat feature of BMS Digital is that the network using it has complete control regarding who can access its data. And networks can modify their own information for both the DPAA planning and Symphony buying tools.

“I feel strongly that Symphony should be free” Soupliotis says, reiterating some of his comments made in Munich at #DOOHBizKonf. “Networks should not be charged. It’s unfair that they should shoulder the cost.”

Ayuda has some grandiose plans that it shared with us for the future, but since it is working on some of them at the moment, we’ll keep them to ourselves. Suffice to say that, if some come to pass, there’s a whole group of companies in the field that may need to look again at their business models and in particular how they plan to make money – and we are not necessarily referring to those other companies promoting planning and buying tools!

But, one thing at a time. As Soupliotis said, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

One Response to “Symphony Is Free And It’s In Beta”

  1. Ken Goldberg Says:

    Ayuda’s planning and BMS Digital products may well be very good, and I hope they are. However, there are probably a couple of things worth noting or asking in an article that goes into some detail such as this one. First, the existence of financial and business relationships between Ayuda, Zoom and DPAA, which center around Francois would seem to be pertinent. Second, whether or not the “digital” test site for Symphony Beta is actually Zoom (and I have a box of donuts left over from CETW for you if it isn’t Zoom). Third, what did the letters BMS originally stand for, and does that give a hint as to a parallel strategy between Zoom’s evolution and Ayuda’s?

    Just my opinion here, but as compelling as Ayuda believes the planning/buying tools to be, assuming that it will pull through significant business for BMSDigital (beyond Zoom) is a big leap. Ad planning/buying is a point solution, with different users inside an organization than the core Digital Signage Platform, which you call CMS. As is the case in other industries, wise companies will employ a best of breed strategy and integrate solutions as needed.

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