CEO Spotlight: Katrin Robertson, blowUP media, Dusseldorf

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

This month we welcome Katrin Robertson, CEO, blowUP media GmbH, Düsseldorf, Germany, and Managing Director, blowUP media Ltd., London

Katrin Robertson_blowUP media2

  1. blowUP media has been in business for 20 years. Please tell us a bit about the company’s history and how it has evolved.

    Since 1992, blowUPs have become synonymous with giant posters, ranging from 100 sq. meters to 17,300 sq. meters. We have always had two objectives in mind: helping to create and deliver effective advertising campaigns for our clients. and setting new standards in the design and appeal of public places.

    Over 22 years, we have delivered over 11,000 campaigns for our clients, including award-winning projects such as the giant interactive VW giant poster in Berlin, and iconic banner sites like the Alfa-Laval site on the M4 into London and the Konigsallee in Dusseldorf.

    A growing part of our business is the creation of unique building covers and these include Kensington Palace and the John Lewis Oxford Street store in London and the Alte Oper in Frankfurt.

    The next horizon for blowUP media is digital and we are investing heavily in this medium as and when opportunities arise. Two good recent examples are the ‘Wow’ screen in Rotterdam, where Unilever was our inaugural advertiser, and our recently-unveiled site in the heart of Cardiff, the result of four years’ negotiation and planning with the council and other stakeholders there.

  2. You concentrate on large format boards and screens. What percentage are digital and when did you move into that sector? What spurred that move? Do you foresee digital becoming the larger part of your business?

    Our core business is premium large format banners. The strategy is to enhance our premium large format portfolio with a few premium large format digital sites, where appropriate. Each of our locations is a standout landmark in its area and very individual in terms of location and scale. This strategy will be followed by our digital expansion.

  3. How many posters and how many digital screens do you have in total? What are your smallest and largest poster and screens and where are each located?

    In Europe we have approx. 300 premium large format sites.

    Our digital sites are:

    • Birmingham, Super Motion (61 m²);
    • Cardiff, Super Motion (58 m²);
    • Rotterdam, Super Motion ‘The Wow’ (171 m²);
    • Amsterdam, Super Motion (108 m²);
    • Amsterdam, Super Motions ‘Double Digital’, (2 x 8,4 m).
  4. How does being a member of the Stroër Group help and hinder you?

    Our parent company is a great support to us in every respect: technological expertise, knowledge of the latest trends, administration, research and a solid financial background.

  5. You are listed as both the CEO, blowUP media GmbH, Düsseldorf, Germany, and managing director, blowUP media Ltd., London. How do you divide your time in terms of both work and travel?

    Yes, that is correct. It is tricky, but manageable. I spend at least half the time in the UK and the rest travelling around the rest of Europe. I am also an expert on European airports!

  6. How did you get into the business? What did you do prior?

    I have been at blowUP/Ströer for 19 years, and before that I was a franchise consultant.

  7. I know that choosing first-class sites is important for you. How do you go about choosing them? What’s the strangest place for which you were asked to provide a solution?

    Wrapping the moon . . . Creating a waterfall to run down the Brandenburger Gate, or wrapping the Eifel Tower . . . We are in the artist Christo’s league, but he is better at getting the planning for those events . . .

    We have strict criteria for sites. They must dominate their locations with outstanding visibility and a large audience footfall.

  8. What’s the average length of time that advertisers remain on your products?

    Between 14 and 28 days. For them it is all about ownership of a site, showing their product on a massive scale, creating awareness by impact and dominating an entire area of a city – and getting talked about.

  9. What is the difference between your regular digital screens and your Super Motion screens?

    In terms of technology, we do not differentiate, and where we can put them is purely down to the local planning law. Mega Visions are digital sites showing stills, while the Super Motion sites are located within pedestrian areas. This means the client can use the sites to show full motion at its best.

  10. Whose software management system do you use?

    We use Scala. It has been running for over 25 years and supports over 500,000 screens in over 100 countries. For us the most important demands are stability and flexibility in use. We also employ our own Scala Certified person.

  11. Who are you using for analytics? Please explain a bit.

    For our own analytics, we use the internal proof of performance system by Scala. It generates reports for our clients so that we can deliver them a proof of play. We are also using a proof of visual system with our cameras aiming to the screens. We are also working together with external partners to supply real frequent data.

  12. How can you tie in the digital screens with mobile or add experiential marketing?

    We use and are constantly developing software and hardware to interact with our screens, e.g. to play a game or give some extra information about products

  13. Can you link your screens in Europe in any way?

    All our screens are already linked through our Content Management System. We can program our screens as a group of screens or as a single screen or make a mix. The same goes for our cameras. We can show with our cameras e.g. Rotterdam to Cardiff and vice versa.

  14. You say that the ‘Wow’ LED screen in the Netherlands-Rotterdam Central Station is better quality than all other commercial LED screens in the Netherlands. How so?

    Through our parent company Ströer and its large technology department, we are always aware of the latest technology and its capacity and advantages for our needs. Our staff in China is also always up-to-date and advises about the best electronic components, the highest contrast, the best suited resolution, the best screens with a high refresh rate and so on. Therefore, we have the broad knowledge necessary for buying the best screens and we are willing to invest in the very best.

  15. What kind of lead time do you need to launch a campaign?

    Nowadays, we have a very smooth logistic system behind it all. So, for a banner, we would need 48 hours from receiving the artwork to getting it printed on an average scale of 300 sqm, delivered to the site anywhere in the UK, and then installed.

    Preferably, we would need the campaign booked 10 working days in advance. Availability of the site is a different matter. Clients have learned that our large format premium sites need to get secured way in advance; otherwise they are booked by another client. Of course, with digital, as you know, no lead time is needed.

  16. Do you ever sell a full national or international campaign on them all? Why or why not?

    Yes, we sell local, national and international campaigns on a very regular basis. It all depends on the advertisers’ objectives. For example, advertisers buy our East London package of four because it gives them access to young techies and creatives near London’s Tech City which is full of cool restaurants, bars and clubs. And Morrisons is using seven of our sites to spearhead its latest campaign in the UK.

    We are very proud of our international campaigns, as we are the only large format Premium advertiser in Europe who can offer banners and digital screens with our one-stop-shop process, covering 12 countries. We ensure that the campaign will be up and running simultaneously all over Europe, starting on the same day, all approved and checked by providing very high quality documentation for the client.

  17. You are located in various European countries. What are your plans for expansion in Europe – and elsewhere?

    We are always looking at markets, but there is no concrete project I can talk about right now.

  18. Are you interested in acquisitions? I know that you expanded in Belgium through a merger with Mega Media Belgium. In the various other countries where you have set up offices, were they done through acquisitions or set up from scratch?

    We created the blowup European network 20 years ago and we now run our own offices in the Netherlands, Germany, UK and Spain, with a joint venture in Belgium. In these markets, we started from scratch, inventing the medium and growing to become the dominant player in each market. Of course, we always interested in acquisitions, if they make sense.

  19. Is it difficult to acquire sites for your large formats? Explain, please.

    It does get more and more challenging, because the client demands are getting higher. Today, our blowUPs have to be at the point-of-sale, on the most frequented hotspot or deliver an outstanding size. As you can imagine, those opportunities, such as 500 sqm in the middle of Piccadilly Gardens, turn up very rarely. With digital screens, it is even more tricky. As you are aware, we are talking about a very different scale of investment. Therefore, it is essential to get the market research right. Once the site is built, the ROI plan has to work.

  20. Tell us how and where you foresee blowup Media by the end of 2015.

    blowUP media will be a recognized market player within the Premium Large Format OOH market, not just in the banner sector, but also within the digital market. As CEO, I am always looking for new opportunities in premium large format, wherever they may occur, especially now that technological change is opening up the market.

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