Adshel flicks the switch on digital screen network, explores programmatic opportunities

Spark, McDonald’s, Tower, Coca-Cola, Skinny Mobile and Sky are the first advertisers to get themselves onto Adshel’s new network of 35 digital roadside panels in Auckland and general manager Nick Vile says the response from the market to the new screens has been huge.

Called Adshel Live, the network of screens are located in Auckland’s CBD and key fringe suburbs and adapt to the ambient light so they’re always visible. And Vile says it’s a watershed moment for the company as it moves away from simply selling posters on bus stops and starts offering innovation and customer insights.

He says its three major launch partners McDonald’s, Spark New Zealand and Skinny Mobile went live on Sunday with campaigns featuring multiple types of creative executions that tapped into the network’s ability to deliver contextual relevance (McDonald’s, in keeping with some recent overseas campaigns, is simply running creative showing pictures of its food, without feeling the need to include any text).

“Our clients are increasingly seeking flexibility and improved targeting when they buy out-of-home. Adshel Live is scalable, dynamic and offers a truly diverse audience,” he says. “The network puts Auckland alongside cities like London and Singapore in terms of media sophistication.” 

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, has used exactly the same product, which he says is pretty much unbreakable. 

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. 

Vile says New Zealand will be just the fifth market to launch the technology and Australia will be launching it later this year. He says it hopes to have a combined 150 digital panels in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch by this time next year. 

The flexibility digital outdoor offers—whether it’s weather, location or time-specific creative—and the possibility of digital and social integration is an appealing prospect to digitally-focused advertisers and agencies and Vile is confident the network will attract clients that don’t already use outdoor—or don’t use it as much as they used to.

Australia has recently conducted a programmatic trial with Tube Mogul through the Cadreon platform and Adshel put some of its Sydney rail inventory in. And, with media agencies hot on programmatic at the moment he says Adshel, like many other media owners, is exploring opportunities in this area for this market. Adshel has also restructured its sales tema and brought in some more digital expertise to adapt to this shift. 

Australia chief executive Rob Atkinson also said at a launch event last night that it would be rolling out a network of beacons and wifi- and NFC-enabled street furniture, which will add to its data collection abilities.

Omnicom Media Group’s (OMG) chief investment officer Scott Keddie said: “We are excited by what Adshel Live will deliver our clients, be it to create more impact closer to the point of sale or the ability to deliver multiple messages at once across the 35 screen network, therefore enabling more relevant and engaging creative opportunities. There is a lot of potential Adshel Live will provide OMG clients in the future as the network expands.” 

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 latest ASA numbers, which equated to 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 of total advertising spend (although it hasn’t put a time frame on that). OMANZ was unable to provide data on the overall rise of digital for the sector. But Vile 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 with static inventory flat, that was driven by new revenue coming in from digital.

APN Outdoor launched its first large-format billboard almost two years ago, and added four more screens last year, and chief executive Phil Clemas says the network has proven very successful.  He couldn’t share revenue figures, but he said they represent a significant part of its growth momentum and every cycle across its five screen Auckland CBD network has sold out since launching back in July 2014. It also has two ‘Spectacular Screens’ at Auckland Airport, which he says are also proving to be very popular. 

“Demand remains strong because advertisers are getting it. More and more are seeing the benefits of the immediacy and flexibility of digital, the creative possibilities and convergence opportunities with mobile and social channels. We have learnt a lot over the first two years since pioneering digital in New Zealand and we know from client feedback that the premium nature of our screens is also a compelling factor to their ongoing interest and demand … We always knew competitors would enter the fray which is good for the market and for the industry. I can see advertising spend on digital assets in outdoor in New Zealand reaching 12 percent within the next year or so.” 

APN Outdoor’s digital screens have shown the powers that be that they are not a dangerous distraction to drivers or too visually offensive (a recent story in the US talked about Times Square having to remove its big billboards due to a regulatory glitch, but that doesn’t appear to be the case). 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. And for anyone worried about being distracted by the bright new screens, he says there is no international research to show that it’s a safety issue. 

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