This month, in the CEO Spotlight, we welcome Jean-Charles Figoni, CEO, iDklic , Brussels, Belgium.
- I notice that you have a lot of pharmaceutical clients, but also Mercedes-Benz . How did the company get started and how did you personally get involved with the digital out-of-home sector?
Back in 2005, someone sent me an article about the future of communications and how it was to become more and more digitalized in the coming years. I suddenly realized that Out-of-Home communications had (and still has) a large potential.
Following on this idea, I conducted a market study of digital signage worldwide and, more specifically, in France. The pharmaceutical sector was an attractive niche market, very complex but also very promising. After six months, we gained our first contract with a chain of 50 pharmacies: Pharma Santé . Once more, we made a market study in collaboration with our client to really understand their needs in terms of corporate communication, educational information and, of course, advertising. With all this information and the information we have since gained work with other clients.
I believe that we have now found the perfect approach and business model to create a private In-store TV network inside pharmacies, with a fast return on investment as well as the opportunity to create additional revenues/profits for the network owner. We commercialized our approach to EPC Familia , another Walloon pharmacy chain (100 POS) in 2007; V.Pharma  (50 POS) and Universal Pharma (15 POS) in 2009 and 2010; and we are currently deploying a new network of 100 pharmacies, which will be announced at the launching of that network in 2011. They are all private chains, which means that we create a new ‘in-store TV’ every time.
- What is your goal for the company in the next five years, in terms of growth, expansion, mergers or acquisitions?
Our main goal is to create opportunities for advertisers and high return on investments for pharmacy chain owners, while informing, entertaining and engaging customers. We will continue to grow moderately, but in a sustainable way. We do not want to reproduce the Internet startup hype of the 2000s.
For the pharmacy business model, our objective is to own between 25%-to-50 % of the high potential pharmacies of Belgium in 2013. The objective is shared with our clients (advertisers). This represents around 750-to– 1,250 pharmacies. We are also planning to export our pharma business model to European retail chains in countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands. And last, we all know Asia will be leading the 21st century and we are exploring and studying this market very actively.
- How many screens and networks do you currently have? What kind of new products do you hope to add in the near future?
To summarize, we currently have 300 pharmacies in Belgium divided into five different groups of pharmacies, 70 Mercedes Benz dealerships in Belgium and Luxemburg, as well as a network of cybercafés in Paris. We commercialize airtime on 700 screens. We also have other small networks and screens around Brussels.
What our industry is currently experiencing is a transition brought about by the intersection of complementary technologies. At iDklic we believe in the integration of digital signage with mobile devices. Our next strategic orientation will be to extend our networks into phones, smartphones and other mobile devices. You can build an extremely efficient relationship with your consumer with the integration of mobile and DOOH. We will try to incorporate mobile technologies into our networks and join the active consumer ecosystem. In a certain way, localized digital signage advertising will receive all of our attention.
- You’ve partnered with NEC , Navori  and Vogel’s . What do each of these offer you and why did you choose them?
Our approach is to work with professional and industrial suppliers. We do not offer consumer hardware and software to our clients. We want to guarantee the highest standard and quality.
- iDklic Creative is an independent motion design agency created specifically for the digital sector. How is it connected in terms of ownership? Is there a holding company for iDklic, iDklic Creative  and perhaps more?
iDklic is divided in three branches:
iDklic Network is the technical branch of our company. It commercializes our solution, the iD Media Screen, and is in charge of setting up network technologies and on-site deployment.
iDklic Creative is our motion design agency. We create all the content and advertising broadcast on our networks. Since the creation of iDklic, we have always taken care of content. as we believe it is very important key success factor. The success of any kind of DOOH network is dependant on making real and lasting impressions with audiences. The power and opportunity for success lie squarely with the content that is placed on it. The world is changing, the way we communicate is changing and the keystone of that change is the consumer. It has been too often relegated as a secondary part in the planning and execution of a DOOH project. Content must therefore adopt a more commanding role and take its rightful place. That is our vision for the creative part of the business.
iDklic Advertising is our advertising sales agency. We commercialize airtime on our pharmacy network. Our occupation rate is 80% on average and with this service, we guarantee a fast return on investments for our clients.
These three branches work simultaneously on all our projects but can also work individually. This is one of our USPs: ‘Your one-stop-shop partner to create an effective digital signage network’.
- Your company provides the infrastructure, solutions and services. What percentage of your clients uses your creative services as opposed to that of their agencies? Why do they prefer using your creative division?
Actually, 100% of our clients are using our creative services. As I just mentioned, we are a one-stop-shop and most of our clients choose us for this reason. They want one company that can handle all the required competencies. At present, more and more of our advertisers are asking iDklic creative to create and design their digital screen content.
- You recently joined OVAB Europe .
We want to be part of the thinking group that will try solving the planning and buying process for digital out-of-home media. This is the main requirement advertisers need to gain confidence in the medium, and the industry needs to facilitate the buying process by creating a true marketplace.
- You live and work in a bilingual – or maybe I should say, multi-lingual country, How do you cope with that in terms of digital signage ad placement and creative? Are there any laws that dictate what you can and can’t do because of the languages?
This point is very important in Belgium, as three languages are spoken in the country. It is a problematic situation which has forced us to become very flexible and to create all the content in Flemish, French and German. The positive aspect of this is that we are easily able to control networks in different countries with different languages. The multilingual/cultural approach is in iDklic’s foundation. Especially here in Brussels, the center of various international organizations such as the EU commission and Parliament, you find people from all over Europe and the world.
- Tell us about the measurement systems you use and why?
We are currently using a Quividi  eyes tracking system. We are satisfied with this technology and Quividi is providing all the assistance and support needed. We have been using this technology for 18 months. The results are positively surprising, and this information is crucial to understand our customer behavior towards our screens, approach and content.
- Tell us about your network for Mercedes-Benz. Is your client the corporate company or the Dealers’ Association? You seem to be in about 35 cities. How many screens are in each dealership and for what are they used?
For Mercedes-Benz, we deployed a corporate network, without advertising. The overall objective of the project is to communicate more effectively by standardizing the communication and increasing the Mercedes branding within the dealerships. The content selected by Mercedes-Benz Belux mainly originates from Mercedes-Benz TV , the Internet TV channel of the brand. The entire broadcast loop is a mixture of television commercials and documentaries. We are very proud of this project because the technical requirements were very high, strict and demanding. And we succeeded with our high quality solution iD Media Screen.
- You also seem to have four separate pharmaceutical networks. How are they used? Where are the screens located and what kind of content do they carry?
We work with the pharmacy chains. Our approach is dedicated to corporate clients and chains. The screens are used to communicate special promotions, corporate branding, and to advertise seasonal products. It is a basic but effective network operation. Screens are behind the counters, at eye level in front of the waiting line.
- If you had to manage the DOOH industry in general, what things would you put in place to help it grow and gain better awareness among media planners?
First, digital signage is a complimentary medium to traditional advertising methods, and we need to see it used more with various mobile technologies. In that way, digital signage will take advertising to a whole new level of mass interaction. Then, digital signage will provide a powerful tool for marketers to reach a new connected class of consumers. Only at this time, we will have awareness among media planners and agencies.
We will also need to find a way to make it easy for brands and their agencies to access, plan, and buy standardized advertising on digital placed-based networks.