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Home   /   SpotLite   /   An Interview with Sean Gadsby, Head of Programmatic at BackLite Media

For our #TechTuesday, we interviewed Sean Gadsby, Head of Programmatic here at BackLite about programmatic digital out-of-home (PrDOOH). Sean explains why digital is so popular today, and highlights the importance of partnerships, understanding clients and consumers, and how AI is part of this programmatic future.

Describe PrDOOH in a nutshell

Programmatic makes your media available at the click of a button.

It’s automation. It’s making your media available to media agencies and clients at the click of a button and then serving that content as well, again at the click of a button.

“Programmatic DOOH isn’t necessarily a new media. It’s just a new way for media owners to make their digital assets readily available for buying and selling. Also, a new way for agencies and clients to be buying our media as well. And the final thing is that the actual posting and serving of the adverts is also part of that automation as well”.

How would you see this from the perspective of the clients?

As more and more media owners in the DOOH space make their media more readily available programmatically, it is a one-stop shop in a drop-down portal for your media to be viewed and considered by local agencies, global agencies, and global clients.

It’s all about the ease of the process, the automation, the speed, the flexibility, and how dynamic this process can be.

What is the effect of programmatic on sales?

We are relatively new to programmatic here in this region. But we can see from our neighbours across Europe and North America that a large percentage of their advertising revenues are now coming from programmatic. We have always been behind the curve in this market. Sometimes people say we are 5-7 years behind the UK. The good thing for us is that the answers to the test are just across the water, so we know it’s come. That’s why we are going through the process of being as ready as possible for the inevitable rise of programmatic digital out-of-home.

When did programmatic start being a thing here in Dubai or globally?

Globally for quite a while. Companies in North America and Europe have been doing it for at least 5 years now.

Programmatic works very well when you have got the scale. Companies in the UK have national networks, so they’ll have digital screens that are part of a wider network across Birmingham, Manchester, and London. So that’s the ideal scenario for a programmatic campaign because a company can come to one media owner at a click of a button and serve their content to some of the biggest cities in the UK in one shot and have a nationwide campaign.

Programmatic gives clients and agencies a more deep-dive into when I am having my campaigns live in OOH. Who is my target audience? Whom do I want to reach? Where do I want to reach them? When do I want to reach them? That’s why programmatic is so important in a unique strategy in our marketplace right now.

I love how you mentioned that with the click of a button, you can do a nationwide campaign, and what are some examples of campaign executions that you like?

So we have had a good few here in this region, starting locally with the YSL campaign that went live on Sheikh Zayed Road. We had a client via a local agency who wanted to reach audiences in Dubai and invest in their digital out-of-home campaign on an impression basis. That was one of the first and most impactful programmatic campaigns we have seen locally on our doorstep.

It was a one-month campaign with a 4-week duration. I know that the client was super happy with the results. We were able to give them a post-campaign report that showed them how many planned impressions there were for the campaign, how many impressions played out as a result of the traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road and then give them some detailed audience insight as well, to know from those impressions what kind of audience were within those impressions.

How easy or hard is it to measure these impressions and give accurate data to the client?

It’s quite easy actually because we have got such strong data partners. Our data ecosystem consists of Ad Mobilize, which counts cars on Sheikh Zayed Road, so we know the peak hours in traffic.

Starting with the number of cars, we can look at how traffic differs per intersection. We can look at traffic speed to know dwell time differences and how long individuals are in front of our signage from intersection to intersection.

We are planning campaigns now thanks to our data and the benefits that programmatic offers based on, for example, commuter hours. If you are an F & B client, you could serve a copy between 8-10 am when commuters make their way to work and serve coffee- or breakfast-based content. At lunchtime, between 12-2 pm, a piece of copy that refers to the lunch menu and then into the evening, you catch people on their way home in their commute again but going the other way.

I imagine that during the morning, when everyone is in a rush to work, it is a peak hour, where perhaps programmatic would be a golden time or more expensive time to advertise. And that goes back to your point of knowing the audience. And in fact, we mentioned partners like Ad Mobilizer. Are there any other partners that allow us to get a more holistic view of this data? 

Yes. The second data and audience measurement company we partner with is Seventh Decimal. We use their platform, Streach, a lot and in detail. So, They have given us even further insights. It is not only an impression but also an opportunity to read frequency and reach, what you understand in this campaign, pre-campaign planning phase, to answer the question, “How much of the Dubai population are we going to reach?”. We can tell asset by asset, location by location, just how effective that location and digital screen are. It’s beneficial whether it’s on SZR Digital destinations or even in malls. It gives our proposals and recommendations extra accountability and is backed by their data. 

With mobile data, correct?

With STK data that works based on geofencing, if those handsets do pass within that geofence around our locations, we will receive that data and analyze it accordingly.

Let us look into the future of programmatic.How do you envision the future OOH advertising here in Dubai in such a forward and fast-paced city?

So it comes in two steps. OOH and DOOH will continue to move forward, and traditional OOH, including static, will always hold its place in this market. But I think what we will do is have further advancements in advertising technology, AI, audience measurement companies, as well as SPSS and DSPs that open our inventory to be smarter, to be more flexible, to be more targeted.

So I see that Programmatic will play a big part in the future. Hopefully, by leading the line and being the kind of thought leaders talking in that kind of vocabulary and language about impressions, we will get the attention of many media agencies and clients here on our doorstep.

What advice would you give to someone like me who is entering the media industry at the moment and wants to learn more about the place of DOOH?

Be hungry, be passionate, be enthusiastic. And you know, keep your mind open to new ideas, new technology, and new ways of thinking. Because you never know what the next step in DOOH might be. Programmatic is right now. Who knows where it is going to go next! But keep your eyes and ears open, and stay ahead of the game! 

Paula Carola
Marketing Executive
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