APN Outdoor started the large-format digital party in New Zealand in 2013, iSite is set to launch its own large format digital network soon and a few other smaller players have added their own sites. Now Adshel is joining in the fun, with 35 digital panels set to be switched on in the Auckland CBD and fringe suburbs in June. And general manager Nick Vile says it opens up a range of possibilities for advertisers.
Vile says Adshel's parent company Clear Channel has been operating the roadside digital panels for around three or four years in London and San Francisco. And the New Zealand business, a joint venture between Clear Channel and APN, will be following their lead and using exactly the same product, which he says is pretty much unbreakable.
"It's actually bulletproof. I probably shouldn't say that. Someone might try to prove me wrong [perhaps a stunt involving a gun, a new digital panel and a willing executive needs to be arranged]."
In London, he says it calls the product LD6, a reference to the number of sheets required. In comparison, a large format digital billboard is 48 sheets. And across London's 10,000 strong street furniture network, it started off with just 100 digital panels. That has recently increased to 500, but part of the strategy is to try and maintain a premium for those sites, which, like Auckland, are located in the most in demand sites.
He says New Zealand will be the sixth market to launch the technology and Australia will be launching it later this year ("It's always nice to beat them"). He says it hopes to have a combined 150 digital panels in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch by this time next year.
Outdoor has been on the rise over the past few years and returned to its 2011 Rugby World Cup-inspired peak of $83 million in the recent ASA numbers, which equated 3.5 percent market share. The good news has continued this year, with gross media revenue for the first quarter increasing nine percent on the same time last year to reach $17.2 million. OMANZ has a stated goal of getting to five percent market share (although it hasn't put a time frame on that). So will digital help that, or is the appeal of digital screens cannibalising spend in static outdoor media?
"Our hope is that it's coming from elsewhere, but it's a difficult thing to manage," says Vile.
He points to the Australian market as a good example of what might happen here. It charted 23 percent year on year growth in out-of-home and that was largely driven by new revenue coming in from digital.
As such, he says finding advertisers that don't already use outdoor—or don't use it as much as they used to—and selling them on the added flexibility digital panels offer is part of its sales strategy.
He says TV networks could run creative from 4pm to 6pm promoting their big news stories or shows (Fairfax has been promoting some of its headlines through APNO's digital screens), the QSR sector could change out creative depending on the time of day (something a lot of the digital signage networks in retail stores offer) and there's also potential to tie creative into the weather or even target outdoor ads like Lexus did recently in Australia.
Vile says these digital panels are separate to its Connect mobile platform and the other bespoke street furniture products. It is also looking at more touch-screen interactive opportunities.
As a result of this change in focus and the need to sell across a digital network, Vile says it has restructured the sales department and has hired staff with more digital experience.
Following the departure of Auckland sales manager, Rae Anderson, Ben Gibb has been appointed to the newly created sales and marketing director role. He joins Adshel from NZME where he was briefly group general manager of digital sales. Prior to that he held roles at Yahoo, Bauer Media and HB Media. He commences with Adshel on 26 May.
"Adshel has grown rapidly in recent years and as we introduce digital OOH, a critical part of our growth strategy is to ensure we have the right commercial leadership in place," says Vile. "We are very pleased to be bringing a media executive of Ben’s calibre into our business to help us work with our clients to deliver the increasing opportunities that outdoor offers. Ben’s experience across a wide range of media combined with his strong reputation in market make him a great fit for Adshel.”
Simon Paul has also been promoted to group sales manager from his current role as senior account manager.
"He has been with Adshel for three years and in that time has proven his value as an astute sales person, contributing to the growth the business has achieved over that time," says Vile. "His promotion is a reward for his dedication in achieving our growth profile, and is part of our wider digital OOH rollout, where he’ll play a core role in sales planning."
As group sales manager, he will now take on the leadership of the Auckland agency and direct sales team, including Sian Gotts who has been appointed to the newly created sales co-ordinator role.
Last year, he says it hired two account managers in Auckland and Wellington who had digital experience in preparation for this shift to digital. And a search is also currently underway for a marketing executive, who will report to Gibb.
Vile admits APN Outdoor's digital screen have allowed the powers that be to see that large-format digital screens are not a dangerous distraction to drivers or too visually offensive. And the success of that roll-out has led to a gradual increase in the number of sites and allowed other players to dabble. Unlike its competitors, Vile says it doesn't deal with the Council as it already has a deal with Auckland Transport to provide street furniture in exchange for the right to sell advertising, but he says it was a major process going through all the potential issues of swapping a static lightbox for a digital version.
So do the smaller roadside screens pose any additional danger? As he points out, there are a whole heap of non-digital distractions for anyone driving down Queen St—and other digital distractions like the signage in the windows of the banks. And he says there is no international research to show that it's an issue.