Dan Dawson CCO, Grand Visual

This first appeared in MarTech Series on 21st February 2019.

Our Chief Creative Technology Officer, Daniel Dawson discusses technological advancements in the Out-of-Home (OOH) industry in 2018 and his predictions for AdTech with MarTech Series.

Daniel Dawson ADtech OOH

Tell us about your role at Grand Visual and the team/technology you handle.

I head up all creative technology projects at Grand Visual and I am lucky to have a diverse team with a broad spectrum of creative, technical and coding backgrounds to work with.

Besides working on our own AdTech platforms and systems, we also explore, implement, and hone a whole range of innovative engagement techniques such as Augmented Reality, Touch & Gesture, Face Tracking, Video, and Mobile to drive interactions. Engaging stories allow consumers to change or personalize experiences in various ways, creating greater brand recall and changing consumer behaviours. 

What were the most significant technological advancements in the Out-of-Home industry in 2018?

There have been some high-profile advancements in the testing of programmatic platforms for automated media trading. A significant and necessary step forward for the industry, in terms of connecting real programmatic media to programmatic creative — the holy grail.

Google Maps DOOH 2019

What are your predictions on the state of AdTech in 2019?

AdTech systems are already changing the way brands plan, book and use the Out-of-Home medium. OOH specialists have begun to buy a sustained presence across the year for heavy OOH users such as McDonald’sCoca Cola and Google, with these brand’s implementing a longer-term intelligent planning approach across their brand and product portfolios. In 2019, these backend AdTech systems will make huge steps in terms of their interoperability. This will see improvements across inventory management, transactional exchanges, data management, creative logistics, creative optimization and, of course, reporting, all areas for systemization. Consolidation of networks, agreement on standards, and system integration will show Digital Out-of-Home gearing up to be a real force this year.

How would the AdTech industry further grow with the maturity of data science and analytics?

In the Digital OOH (DOOH) space, we are rich in data. While data aggregation and uniformity is still a challenge, especially with some campaigns using up to 15 separate data feeds, we have the benefit of permanent screen technology and can, therefore, build a data picture of the location, the changing conditions, and audiences. Audience insights boost our ability to make advertising creatives contextual and relevant, and more impactful. It also enables targeted Out-of-Home ad buys, which are only activated when the conditions are right, leading to improvements in audience targeting efficiency.

Real-time campaign reporting from third-party verification platforms such as PlayTrack also offers advertisers the ability to assess campaign success and optimize creative on the go. This level of transparency and accountability is crucial for the programmatic future of Digital OOH. Further down the line again — increased data sharing through the blockchain will fuel omnichannel and omniscreen campaigns with much smarter cross-platform audience planning. With more electronic devices in everyone’s pockets, connected, cross-platform digital platforms campaigns will become a programmatic reality.

Spotify 2018 Wrapped Digital OOH

Tell us more about QDOT.

QDOT is an AdTech business designed to facilitate smart, scalable campaign management for digital OOH. These digital-asset management tools were originally developed and used as in-house processes, for Grand visual clients. But as the market grew and evolved to become a flexible, tactical, and real-time platform, just like other digital mediums, Out-of-Home required the infrastructure and creative toolkits to handle the growing volume of creative. That’s why we launched QDOT and opened up our platforms and services to the entire market.

To deliver Spotify’s Wrapped campaign, for example, over 7,640 personalized playlists were shared globally. OpenLoop, the smart campaign management platform from QDOT, allowed users to submit their personalized Wrapped stats and see them published on iconic digital billboards around the world. OpenLoop ingested the data and automated the delivery just moments later. Before OpenLoop, campaigns like this would have been a logistical nightmare. It’s about providing ease of use and driving creativity.

How did you prepare for the execution of the ‘Wrapped’ campaign?

Spotify sent us a version of their data schema and a mock-up of the creative. We tested the schema across our platforms and suggested refinements. Our software is very versatile and is able to ingest feeds to match them against physical locations and media plans. Pairing this with our creative and content development made the whole process very smooth for us and the client.

McDonald's McWeather Digital OOH

At Grand Visual, how do you combine creative technology with data? Could you lead us through your data analytics operations before launching any DOOH/OTT campaigns?

Data crafting is part of what we do. We evaluate all the sources of data that are available and decide how and what to use in order to enhance the brand story and bring the campaign to life. It’s not about using data and technology for the sake of it, we approach data carefully with the brand story always at the heart of what we do. It’s rule-based and creative-driven data science.

How do you prepare for an AI-focused world? Which technologies are you most keen to learn more about?

Grand Visual’s job is to craft creative stories based on the data sources available. So, we’re interested in Machine Learning algorithms and Predictive Analytics based on historical data. Both on a media buying level as well as content creation. If we can predict consumer behaviour — we can base messages on real-world outcomes.

Unified programmatic planning and creative optimization is the end goal, where Planning, Buying, Distribution, Playback, and Reporting are programmatically achieved using real-time audience information and data insight to drive the decision-making process. So. right now creating standards, is a core challenge for the industry. Globally agreed standards for independent 3rd-party verification of advertising play-outs (down to a panel and individual play level), will support the growth of the digital OOH market globally. Making it easier to run digital campaigns at scale across all DOOH channels.

For the past 14 years, Advertising Week has brought together industry professionals in New York City to discuss marketing, branding, technology and the evolution of the industry.

This year’s seminars and workshops touched on all the hot topics including native ads, programmatic, data and mobile, leadership, transparency and the role of politics in our world. Across all discussions, a huge emphasis was made on how the broader advertising
industry continues to use an innovative and tailored approach to address these subjects.

Extended and Embedded Models

With new players continuing to be introduced, the role of CMOs must evolve to remain relevant in their respective businesses. As a result, more teams from across the creative landscape are beginning to cozy up to the idea of sitting within the client’s team or at their partner’s spaces, to facilitate efficiency on joint projects. The experimental mindset is growing and the model of extended teams is being embraced and improving results for clients.

Clients have different needs and the advertising ecosystem is continuing to evolve and grow to meet those needs. In the session An Uncomfortable Conversation with CMOs, Angela Ceccarelli, Vice President, Marketing, HSBC said “Marketers need to be orchestrators and not conductors; they need to leverage their staff, partners and loyalists.”

Connected Screens

Another interesting theme emerging throughout the week was the evolution of connections between the digital and physical worlds. Consumers only perceive one connected world, therefore you shouldn’t have separate online and offline strategies, you should have one overarching strategy that touches all elements within the consumer’s journey.

As technology and digital solutions continue to evolve, it’s interesting to see how advertisers are aligning marketing objectives across different devices and locations. There’s a certain excitement around treating offline the same way we treat online. What does programmatic outdoor look like? What does search in a physical environment imply?

Outdoor Solutions

During the session, When Programmatic Buying Gets Placement Right, Nathan Eide, Director, Media Technology & Innovation, FRWD, enthusiastically shared his experience with programmatic digital OOH for one of their biggest clients; a top national retailer. Programmatic buying, and the right location and data partners meant that they could identify and track individuals – meaning that for the first time they were able to measure the client’s ROI down to the dollar.

Modern Convergence

As consumers constantly change and absorb content in different ways, agencies need to feel equally comfortable with outsourcing to specialists that create content and other connected solutions in different ways as well.

At the end of the day, we all need to learn how to collaborate in this ever-changing playground. It’s important to play nice in your client’s roster and educate your partners on what you do best (and vice-versa). This will help you deliver beyond your scope, and clients are expecting you to do so.

As Winston Binch Chief Digital Officer, Deutsch NA, wisely said “Meet the ask, but bring the need.” The digital capabilities are out there, it’s time to partner up and move the industry forward.

*Article first appeared on Exchange Wire 21st November, 2016

In the last ten days I’ve travelled extensively by plane, train, automobile and bike. I’ve been to four states, on both coasts, and encountered thousands of adverts. These ads were not viewed on my laptop thanks to an ad blocker, nor on my phone where I run very few free apps, and I didn’t see them on TV thanks to the fast forward button on my DVR.

What I’ve seen are thousands of Out of Home (OOH) ads both print and digital. This may not surprise you given that the US is the world’s largest OOH advertising market, by revenue. Impressive digital OOH (DOOH) growth continues to buoy the sector and is set to capture 53% of total US OOH ad spend by 2018, according to eMarketer.

But, as I travelled about, I got a nagging sense that the creative evolution of the medium has not kept apace with the technological advancements, and that brands are not making the most of the mediums fully expanded digital feature set now on offer.

NYC – the Digital Theatre
Back in New York City, my home for the last three years, the pace of change across the DOOH landscape is breathtaking. Driven by significant investment in the realm of nine figures, NYC is by far the most valuable OOH market in the US. Its population density and extensive public transport network, make it an atypical American city, and the scale of investment going into the city’s DOOH architecture is a testament to this.

The opportunity to turn the whole of Manhattan into a digital theatre, where a brand can tell it’s story, will soon be the biggest and best opportunity in the world. Consider what’s already there; The New York City Subway is at the forefront of the US’ transition to DOOH formats. Screens are ubiquitous across the networks platforms and stations, providing essential customer information and offering high value display advertising.

The Westfield World Trade Center recently opened with a single screen that’s over 280 feet long in addition to the rest of their downtown “DOOH District”. Intersection’s LinkNYC has new kiosks popping up everyday and with free Wi-Fi usage now surpassing 576,000 people, and still growing. Outfront have their Hudson Yard network, JCDecaux are adding more digital transit shelters to their network and other large format displays are constantly appearing.

The digital inventory is there, as well as addressability through platforms such as OpenLoop. When you combine this with the additional plug-in features such as WIFI, multi-screen synchronization, full motion, geofencing, mobile and social integration, live feeds, closed networks, and multiple attribution methods, it is clear the advertiser has a huge choice before them.

Embrace the Technology
Going beyond DOOH’s impressive broadcast capability, the infrastructure is now there to facilitate smarter more intelligent communication. It’s a much richer canvas on which to tell brands stories. Dynamic, interactive, and data-driven campaigns, reflecting real-world events in real-life environments are now possible. For advertisers looking to make a splash in NYC, it means you can connect with consumers via multiple formats, touchpoints and technologies during the course of their day.

As data becomes increasingly important there is a real opportunity to harness the ‘Context Effect’, where dynamic and locally relevant conditions can inform and drive content and supercharge campaign effectiveness. With its public, high-impact presence, DOOH is perfect for Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) and the medium deserves a fresh and engaging creative approach that resonates with context and audience mindset.

Programmatically informed creative is already making in-roads in the US. Earlier this year Amazon launched a people-powered DOOH campaign for Catastrophe, inviting the public to tweet in their favourite themes from the series, like #Sex or #Romance. A live poll mechanism then delivered trailers tailored to audience preference, continually adapting and changing over the course of the campaign according to audience interests.

Google Play Music took this a step further when it delivered the first programmatically informed DOOH campaign to span four States and multiple media vendors. The initiative saw premium roadside and city centre screens behaving in a similar way to the music app – offering perfect soundtracks based on the consumer’s mind-set in that moment.

The campaign used multiple triggers including real-time traffic data, weather, location and time of day and OpenLoop delivered the contextually relevant playlists. Suggestions included Classic Rock Wake Up Call during the hectic morning rush-hour in Chicago, The Overcast Feeling on a cloudy day, or Hot Miami Nights: Latin House on a clear Friday night in the sunshine state.

Whilst it’s not surprising that heavy weight digital brands like Google and Amazon are leading the way with smarter dynamically optimised DOOH campaigns, the same benefits can be leveraged by any brand. The scale of investments being made in DOOH infrastructure in NYC mean that this is not a medium for only the brave; the risks are low and the rewards are high. Now is the time to embrace the technology and the burgeoning opportunities that make DOOH such an exciting space to work in.

The Brave New Advertiser
DOOH has the potential to play an integral role in NYC’s modern, WIFI enabled “smart city” infrastructure. But, navigating this increasingly complex landscape, and making it all work together with brilliant creative is an artform in itself. Whilst landmark campaigns from Google Play and Amazon will help to spur the market on to thinking more about DOOH as a smart, real time, data driven medium, at present, DCO campaigns remain the exception rather than the rule.

It’s time to tear up the traditional outdoor creative handbook and embrace the brave new world of DOOH – it’s a new way of thinking. Creative agencies are best placed to drive the growth and adoption of this brave new world of DOOH, alongside production specialists and media owners who can provide the insight and know-how to handle the nuances of the medium.

One of the first important steps is prioritising your data strategy over your creative one. From a creative perspective, we can access an enormous amount of data to contextualise copy. There’s location data, 3rd party data and brand owned data including pricing, stock levels, retail stores. Through these layers of data, we can exploit the ‘Context Effect’ – providing dynamic, data-driven and locally relevant information.

To realise DOOH’s true creative potential the industry needs to adopt a new cohesive approach to working – based on a frequent interface between agencies, production house and media owners. More broadly, the market needs to attract those from a digital background, whose expertise will help to boost new creative ways of working. The most successful projects feature true collaboration with all stakeholders working together.

Looking ahead to 2017
Digital OOH, plays a key role in creating exciting, modern and memorable cityscapes. Nowhere is this more visible than in NYC, where the medium continues to evolve at breakneck speed with a sophisticated, world-leading DOOH infrastructure in place.

Now is the time to make NYC a leading light for creative excellence. To do this we must embrace a new collaborative way of working, and we must challenge every brief response with smart digital enhancements. Only then can we drive creative standards and help spur the medium onto a more dynamic reactive, and relevant future – a future which will see the city’s agencies topping the leaderboards of outdoor advertising award programmes around the world.

A digital screen featuring the programmatic creative DOOH campaign 'Google Outside'

Programmatic is an industry hot topic right now; from Ad Blocking to proof of performance and ROI. Today’s issue of Campaign investigated an element of programmatic which is particularly close to our hearts at Grand Visual — the approach needed from a creative perspective to facilitate programmatic campaigns.

As Kate Magee from Campaign writes, “The automation involved in the process has seemed at odds with the more serendipitous nature of creativity”. The argument between ‘creative’ vs ‘technology’ sways either way depending on who you speak to. Our approach at Grand Visual has always been to use technology in way which enhances the messaging. It’s interesting to see the high profile nature of this ‘programmatic creative’ discussion when you consider that digital OOH has been delivering on this for a few years already.

With OpenLoop, we have been making creative messaging more contextual and more relevant for years now. Google Outside is a great example of what a programmatic approach can do in DOOH. Managed through OpenLoop the campaign delivered relevant messages in real-time based on location, weather and other environmental factors. Benadryl was another campaign, which featured a programmatic approach, rather than a blanket two-week booking, geo specific messages were only displayed when the right factors were met, ensuring that there was little wastage.

Programmatic creative for DOOH is alive and well and has been delivering for years on various levels. It is not just about data, it is about being smarter with our creative endeavours and delivering messages that are relevant to time, audience demographic, location and mindset. It is programmatic that can’t be blocked or ignored, it is relevant, dynamic and creative and where the future of this industry lies.

Latest from Ben Putland, COO & MD USA

In the last 18 months, I have read the word “programmatic” more times than I have had hot dinners. But the majority of what I have read on programmatic and DOOH is all about the buy; however that’s only part of the story. Imagine if Amazon had launched their business but not had partners in place to ship the product to the end user, the business would not have lasted long.

Programmatic advertising is a way to increase efficiencies, relevancy and reduce waste. Delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, made possible through the intelligent use of data and insight. If Digital Out of Home is to align more with traditional digital then ideas and content need align too, which will drive media value.

More Digital than TV and Print

The DOOH content in the US today is heavily influenced by TV and Print. However, as the market becomes more programmatic the market should align more with programmatic campaigns, where relevance and dynamic content is the norm. We can already see this trend in the UK market with 80% of the projects we delivered in 2014 being similar to online and only 20% similar to TV or Print. Over the past two years, advertising spend in digital has grown substantially. Aligning Digital Out of Home with the intelligence that has spurred growth in traditional digital is a sensible strategy.


Using those four weeks effectively

Changing the creative throughout the campaign is known to be effective in creating brand awareness and moving consumers closer to the end goal. With most US campaigns running for four weeks there is a perfect opportunity to use the classic marketing and advertising funnel to be more effective. Here’s a basic example for the launch of a film or TV show.


The investment to deliver this level of creative would be minimal versus the cost of media, but response rates would be far higher and measuring success would be very easy…

Plan Ahead

Whilst the ability to programmatically buy media for the next day is great, if the placement is a repurposed ad it will quickly turn into a piece of wallpaper. If you want to deliver a high-quality piece of digital content then you need to time to create it – no shortcuts. Allocating time for production must be accounted for when making strategic digital buying decisions to ensure the growth of the medium. Consider the classic project management quality triangle.


Look back to see ahead

Digital Out Of Home can learn a lot from the early days of digital and this study from Google shows dynamic ads achieved better results than static. This research was done three years ago, but still relevant to DOOH today.

Creativity is what makes a difference to a campaign’s effectiveness.