The folks with the ad budgets weigh in

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The Canadian Out-of-Home Digital Association had a bit of a launch Wednesday, using its second industry roundtable on the industry to explain the move to a new handle and the drive to make this a true arms-length trade association, in it to drive the business for all involved.

The roundtable, held at a Toronto brewpub, had 18 or so people from the network operator side and the media planning/buying side tossing around ideas and observations about where the industry sits, where it wants to go, and how to get there.

The planners were generally senior, well-known people in the industry, who have their mitts on many, many millions in major ad spend annually. The companies did not just send some of their kiddies with the carrot of free beer after the session.

There were another 20 or so people there as observers – most of them network operators or suppliers interested in what the group had to say.

Over the unfortunate din of a working bar, whose patrons up front apparently decided they were plate-smashing Greeks, the group got into a pretty good, pretty frank chat about our space … at least in Canuck terms.

The Coles Notes version:

  • The planners see more money going to Digital Out-of-Home, also known by the Homer-ish acronym DOOH.
  • The lines between OOH and DOOH will likely blur and then disappear, as most static stuff will be digital in less than 10 years
  • Network operators are worried about the steady influx of new companies into the space, sticking potholes in a road the pioneering companies have worked years to get paved with the ad buyers. One suggested some of the guys coming into the space are “bandits”
  • Some planners said engagement and interactivity are more and more important, while another said it was all about access to well-defined audiences, like sports bars filled with 19-34 year old guys
  • One planner said this all feels like 1995, and the Wild West of the early Web years. All tended to agree what the space needs is some standards on content and measurement, like those eventually imposed by the Internet Advertising Bureau

The moderator exposed a disconnect between how the planners see the industry, and how network operators think they are seen. Planners generally said they see DOOH as a legitimate, leading part of a media buy, while operators felt they are typically well down the list of priority buys.

The moderator also got the media people to lay out the key things that get them interested in allocating money to DOOH networks.

  • audience profile
  • location and environment, ie sports bars, health clinics
  • flexibility to change creative on the fly
  • opportunity to view
  • interactivity
  • an extension to broadcast
  • sometimes just to show a client the planning group is thinking outside the conventional media buying box

There was a fair amount of hand-wringing about the seeming endorsement of what DOOH brings to the dance, and the actual amount of money going to buys on digital networks. One operator noted networks tended to be last on a media plan and first off.

The answer was that was not really true … but kinda, sorta true.

Right now, one explained, it’s really easy to tell a client their money is going into TV, and it is just as easy to make that happen. It is way, way harder to sell in a digital network buy and then execute on it.

Another said the network footprint is just not big enough, for anyone in the space yet, to justify a primary media spend. It’s a secondary buy and will be for some time.

They all emphasized that while there is much to learn about all these new networks, they have seen enough presentations and read enough to have a pretty good handle on it. “We get it,” said one.

Another explained he doesn’t really see DOOH networks as the best way to get the word out everywhere,
“but for narrowcasting, you guys can become very important to me.”

There was much more, but mostly along these lines. The session was followed by lots of free sample pours (Belgian wit beer, woohoo!) from the Mill Street Brewery people, and it being a media event, once that happened there were somehow twice as many people at the after-party.

Mike Girgis, one of the guys who helped found the association and currently its chair, was happy with the event and sees this as something of a rebirth of the group. It now has an executive director on payroll, and there are plans to do another roundtable come spring — this one with suppliers. They are also on a membership drive, looking to get companies to fork over $500-$2,000, the latter getting you voting clout and an autographed 8 by 10 of Alchemy’s Nick Boccone.

I wasn’t convinced the industry was ready for an association two years ago when the CDSA was put together, and the somewhat turgid response kinda backs that up. But there is a lot more energy and real activity now, and the guys controlling the media spend made it pretty clear they’d like to see the industry set some standards, start singing from the same songsheets, and generally grow up and act like the other media groups coming in with their hands out.

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3 Comments on “The folks with the ad budgets weigh in”

  1. Nick Boccone Says:

    Well encapsulated as usual Dave. I think that the overriding message for me was that this medium is very vialble and usable in the minds of media types and its acceptance will continue to grow, in particular with the help of organizations like CODA.
    BTW, the 8 x 10s will be on the “classy” side.


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