Faster than anticipated: Lumo tackles growth, transparency and the opportunities of digital

Phil Clemas

The last two years have been a busy time for Auckland-based digital billboard company Lumo Digital Outdoor, summed up by Phil Clemas, co-founder and chief executive, saying: 

“It’s been hectic and a little bit different than what we expected. We’ve grown more quickly than we originally anticipated.”

Sitting down to chat with Clemas in Lumo’s CBD office, he explains the company has 14 screens operating – 11 in Auckland, one in Hamilton and two in Christchurch – and by the end of the year will have expanded into Tauranga and with 17 sites.

Supporting this is a team of nine that has grown from three-and-a-half members in the last 12 months.

The staff growth means the company has brought in different skill sets to the ones required when Clemas was general manager at APN Outdoor, a company he left in 2016 after eight years. 

He points out the example of British recruit Robin Arnold who joined the recently as chief technology officer, a much-needed role for on-going, long-term technology strategy.

“Being digital-only we need more technology, creative and dynamic based skill sets, and salespeople that can talk the digital language.”

Transparency is key

What’s new for Lumo is its recent website revamp, which came about because of the company’s growing scale. The website design was done by done by Hello Limited, who also looks after Lumo’s digital strategy and website management.

Clemas admits the site looks very similar to before but has seen the addition of aerial drone shots to introduce the billboards using a professional videographer.

“We wanted to dispel any concerns for clients about the quality of the Lumo screen locations and how you can see them,” he says.

“We thought the best way to do that to add some aerial video footage – good for both those aware and unaware of a city’s geography.”

This development of the website is around trying to open the door of transparency, says Clemas, noting that historically with static billboard operators, while photographs of inventory can range in quality, all are taken from an ‘optimal’ position. 

“But there are some that are taken from an angle that doesn’t truly represent what you see when you’re driving in a car.”

He says the traditional way of getting proof of postings with someone out on the start of a media cycle taking photos of the campaign is slowly becoming redundant as a method because of “the increase in content changes” and those changes are becoming less predictable over time.

Lumo is currently transitioning from a manual platform to a fully-integrated sales tool, scheduling and ad serving platform it is licensing from Canadian company Ayuda.

A few of the advantages this system offers, says Clemas, includes greater sales efficiency, flexibility with inventory management and an integrated platform for the delivery and reporting on dynamic creative displays.

“Ayuda will allow us to report accurate and transparent proof-of-performance reports regardless of the simplicity or complexity of the content.”

As well as transparency, Clemas says he wants to see more accountability for OOH as the industry doesn’t have a standard audience measurement tool. Lumo uses real-time vehicle detection technology capturing peak times and non-peak times.

“At the moment you have to buy advertising for a week but we’re providing the ability for selected clients to buy only day parts based on peak times.”

He says the cost is less and it brings in a whole new opportunity for advertisers to use the full flexibility and immediacy of digital OOH.

“They can cherry pick the times and days of the week they think its most important to display.”

He uses the example of client Jefferson Bar in Fort Lane.

“They’re a whiskey bar with a certain style and prestige and they wanted to attract people who are living or working in and around the lower part of Auckland CBD. However, they only wanted to reach them on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday between 4pm and 7pm – so that’s what we booked. It’s about marketing your story or your message with greater relevance to the audience at any given time or day.”

When asked for his favourite campaigns that have used digital to its full extent, Clemas says there are a small number but doesn’t give specifics. 

“I guess that’s the opportunity – at the moment most advertisers are not using digital OOH anywhere near to its capacity or ability.”

Overcoming challenges

When discussing challenges, Clemas says for Lumo – and all operators – it’s planning regulations and council consents.

“In my view, it’s a challenge because the officers at the council who are charged with the consenting process are not keeping up with, or embracing, the technology. They have, in my opinion, a misconception as to what digital billboards are able to contribute to the cityscape.”

But despite sharing the challenge with all operators, Clemas explains that it has never been the intention of Lumo to become one of the big players.

“What we wanted to create was a business with an emphasis around the quality opportunity – quality around site location, the technology [LED screens] and other software technologies.”

And the sites Lumo seeks and uses are specific.

“We are very Auckland-centric and CBD orientated. We want to be on busy roads, near controlled intersections, close proximity to the ground and geographically spread around the circumference of the inner city.”

At the moment, Clemas says the geographical distribution of Lumo’s sites is quite even around the circumference of Auckland city, so over the next six to nine months it will be adding more to fill gaps in the Newmarket area and on the North Shore.

Being nimble

Clemas says having flexibility is an advantage over the “big guys” who he admits, have a lot of advantages in other areas.

“We’re independent, nimble and able to make decisions quickly,” says Clemas. “We’re able to change the shape of the business by bringing in new roles, people and skill sets quickly to recognise changes in the business and in the market.”

Another advantage is that Lumo’s New Zealand-focussed and owned.

“[The others] are all large Australian based companies – there’s nothing wrong with that –  but New Zealand often tends to get side-lined or marginalised in the investment and strategy sides of things. I know this because I’ve been there. The local teams are good people but the controls are in Sydney or Melbourne whereas ours are here in Auckland.”

For Clemas the future is looking exciting, having moved from the start-up phase, to the growth phase. 

“This includes a shift to applying more focus on the creative opportunity that digital OOH offers, particularly around the dynamic content serving solutions such as having ads play on billboards that are more relevant by location, of the week, time of day or other triggers that are important to the campaign objective.”

He gives the example of client MediaWorks. 

“With the news [NewsHub] or The Project, the client can change out headlines at its own office at its own leisure, or use it to promote different programme launches or updates such as on The Block or Dancing with the Stars…it works well with a media company as they have so much useful content.”

Going forward, Clemas says Lumo is keen to focus more on technology-driven innovation, creative thinking specific to large format digital billboards, and providing content solutions to clients that will “dazzle and inspire”. 

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