Clicks meet bricks

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take part in the MENA Cristal Awards in Mzaar Kfardebian, Lebanon. As a Finn, it was fascinating to take a 3 hour flight from Dubai and be in a chalet type environment with a view of the ski slopes from your hotel window. If you ever have a chance to visit Lebanon, check out the Intercontinental in Mzaar. In any case, enough of the tourist guide stuff🙂

The reason for my visit was to participate in the MENA Cristals, which represents the “cannes lions” for the MENA region. It was fascinating to take part in the seminars as well as see the work that was rewarded along the way. I was particularly impressed with the quality and innovative work that FP7 from Bahrain had conducted. Check out some of their work here .

One of the most interesting sessions I had the chance to join, was a presentation from JCDecaux, where mr Decaux himself gave an overview about his company’s ambitions to transform outdoor media to the next level. What struck me during his presentation was yet again a notion of the silo approach many of our media channels are taking when expanding their reach. For sure, with the urbanization of societies and the increase in flight traffic, outdoor media plays an important role in the overall media landscape. However, instead of seeing other channels (such as digital) as competition, I’m surprised how little companies like JCDecaux are embracing digital capabilities to drive a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Digital is seen as a separate medium, when it should be seen as the future of ALL media. I’m not saying this because I happen to work in the digital field. I’m saying this because technology is enabling more and more media channels to become measurable as well as targeted. Think of outdoor and digital capabilities from a different angle:

The cost of changing outdoor ads as well as printing ridiculous amounts of paper must be substantial costs for the company (and the environment). This analog form of media is static and is usually changed on a monthly basic, due to its logistical challenges. Think about combining the best of both worlds. Why are companies like JCDecaux not working with digital media agencies and providers to bring digital media types of advertising features into the outdoor networks of this world? Most outdoor ads are situated in either urban environments which are monitored (just ask Banksy how many CCTV’s there are in London), or in locations that cannot easily be reached by pedestrians (or better said, graffiti artists). What better locations to explore possibilities of utilizing digital screen technologies that are coming cheaper by the day, along with environmentally friendly solar powered solutions that could either power the wireless connectivity needed, or the screens themselves? As an example of solar efficiency, I recently met with a telecoms network engineer who mentioned that solar powered base stations are already in use across some markets around the world. The picture starts to look a little different. When there’s technology that enables and there’s a will for change, the benefits begin to emerge. Think of a digital ad network that is located in physical spaces. That’s the future, but the future is more and more here.

Instead of brands booking a billboard for 1 month, they can decide to book “the afternoon traffic”, or “the morning show”. Opportunities for targeting explode exponentially. Media providers cash in because they can run multiple flights a day, instead of risking their employees losing a leg when changing the paper print from a 10 meter high billboard every month. Again, the fundamental issue in this picture is that each media provider is stuck in their own silo. While JCDecaux is building their outdoor “empire” and Yahoo! (or any other digital media outlet) is expanding their digital footprint, they are not seeing the benefits they could yield by partnering to bring the best of both worlds into the picture. What if a digital media provider would bring in their ad serving capabilities, knowledge and infrastructure into the mix, while JCDecaux would continue to leverage their understanding of the efficiency of outdoor placements, physical formats and locations? In my opinion: a scenario where clicks will start to meet bricks.  (and yield a heck of a lot or ROI & efficiency).

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