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How Digital Out Of Home Is Merging Public And Personal Spaces

Following the merger of Titan and Control Group, the newly formed Intersection is looking to expand urban marketing with geofencing and smartphone interaction.

The use of billboards is one of the oldest forms of place-based marketing. But the last decade has seen companies like Titan, which built one of the larges OOH networks in the country, steadily move to advance that “old form” way beyond other traditional media channels have been pursuing when it comes to personalization and attribution.

But last year, it decided it didn’t want to go it alone as it continued to push the envelope in terms of where digital OOH was headed. Its merger with tech and design specialist Control Group into a single brand dubbed Intersection was intended to, in large part, become a “media and technology company redefining the urban experience.”

That interlocking ambition shared by both entities began with Control Group and Titan’s participation in creating the public wi-fi service LinkNYC. That project also led the two companies to help manage the four-company CityBridge consortium, which is turning New York City’s 7,000 phone kiosks into wi-fi hotspots and cell phone charging stations with maps and other interactive features.

Aside from LinkNYC, Intersection continues to explore the potential for digital out of home (DOOH) advertising. Former SVP of innovation at Titan and current SVP of innovation at Intersection Miko Rahming thinks that DOOH is the perfect catalyst for local discovery. “It’s hard to think of something that’s going to allow you to discover something more easily than having a digital or a static billboard right in front of you while you’re standing waiting for a train,” he said.

GeoMarketing: What’s the potential for location use in digital Out of Home advertising?

Miko Rahming: What was previously Titan managed large physical spaces in transit stations and in public space that have tremendously impactful media placements in them. Some of those are traditional, static, large format media placements but also digital placements. You start to see the number of people that now we know are utilizing smartphones in that space and the ability now to create engagement with brands. Not just with brands but also to improve people’s experience with spaces so giving them information that helps them to navigate those spaces, or to help people with disabilities find out what they’re doing in those spaces.

It really opens up a huge, new opportunity for us where we start to be able to think about doing the kinds of things that were only thought of being possible online. As bandwidth starts to improve you start to see things like augmented reality and there’s a high hurdle for augmented reality because you’ve got to have someone to download an app that has that capability in it to utilize it.

We have had campaigns that have leveraged that already. San Francisco had something with the Asian Art Museum where it’s Terracotta Soldier Exhibit posters came to life when you looked at it though this mobile app where the Terracotta Soldier actually jumped off the wall. You could take a picture of yourself with that Terracotta Soldier and upload to social media.

Tic Tac had a multi-market campaign that also leveraged, augmented reality, where I used their Tic Tac app and looked at the posters. The poster itself rearranged into a trivia game that increased engagement with the brand, and it was really interesting just to see those kind of executions start.

But it’s actually a static billboard that, when you look at your mobile device, becomes a digital board. We want to look at things that are addressing whatever the key demographic target is that the advertiser is trying to communicate with but in a more aggregated sense, not to as in a one-to-one sense. When you start to leverage the mobile device then you start to be able to create a one-to-one experience. That’s where things like augmented reality or NFC where you’re tapping into getting your own personal experience with that through the mobile device becomes very important.

For example, Uniqlo created a party train and you had to go on social media to book your place in the train so it leveraged social media from that standpoint. You see those kind of unique executions, those kind of things are only really possible in the large spaces. Those are the kind of things, experiences that people are flabbergasted and awe-inspired by and want to take pictures of and share on social media and post.

Does all this technological shake up change what marketers expect?

There is the cool factor in being able to do something new. Everybody wants to do something that’s never been done before. Online advertising is great because it allows people to understand direct attribution and measurement in ways that were difficult to understand before. For out of home media, traditionally, that’s been a very difficult thing for us, because part of the media mix is not a direct way for people to interact. What mobile starts to do is give you a window into that attribution. Now when people are interacting with things like QR codes, even social media or NFC, those kinds of things, they are measurable experiences.

We were the first out of home company to actually geofence those impressions around the traditional media to try to get physical world analogs of online re-targeting. Where someone experiences a brand and then they get a secondary exposure to that brand in a way they can interact with it like you would where you’re on a web browser.

Is geofencing becoming a permanent part of what you do?

I feel it really is becoming a mainstream methodology of augmenting these traditional media placements. Like I said, we were the first ones to do it but now you’re seeing it across different out of home companies and agencies where they’re having in-house mobile divisions that do just that because they understand the power of tying those things together.

Our media allows you to be so hyperlocal, looking at how we can impact some of those smaller campaigns and make it more affordable where the local, regional advertisers can leverage this, as well.

Geomarketing in general is about discovery. It’s hard to think of something that’s going to allow you to discover something more easily than having a digital or a static billboard right in front of you while you’re standing waiting for a train, or a bus, or a plane. We offer that in a way that now you can interact with it.

Do your hyperlocal capabilities level the playing field for smaller, local advertisers?

It has the potential to, yes, because a lot of this very reasonably priced if you think about NFCs. Those NFC tags are basically almost free at the price they’re at, they’re very inexpensive.

I think it’s still new to a lot of smaller advertisers because they maybe are not as tech-savvy as some of the larger agencies and that’s part of the education process that we’re doing as a consultative partner with these local regional brands but to let them understand that, “Yes you can do these things.”

Are beacons starting to get integrated or is that still in the experimental stages?

We’re always interested in new technologies and how they’re going to offer benefits to all the stakeholders involved, and for us there are pretty much 3 stakeholders: the transit authority, their ridership, and the advertisers. First we look at are these technologies going to benefit the ridership? What is it going to do that’s going to enhance those people’s experience of that space, their shared experience of commuting or being in a cityscape. I think proximity marketing and things like beacons do offer benefits in those areas. You can think of how beacons will allow people to have better ways to navigate through those spaces and discover information that’s important specifically to them.

It allows the transit authorities to better communicate things that are happening in the station that they’re in; to be able to give them access to information that’s more relevant like what bus is coming to this particular bus stop, or what’s the next train to this station, or other possibilities in that realm. Then finally, obviously, we want to be able to support that through an advertising use case. That’s allowing a person in that environment to get information that’s more relevant to them that comes from a brand. We think it satisfies all those things and we’re interested in exploring those opportunities with our partners but in a way that’s very transparent. It’s very important for us to make sure that the value proposition to all those stakeholders are clearly delineated and explained. It’s very important for people to understand the value they’re getting out of something before you do it, and that’s our mission to be very transparent about that.

We had a press release back in September about a pilot we’re doing with the MBTA in Boston to understand just those things; how we can benefit riders, how we can help the MBTA communicate better to their riders, and how we can improve the experience of using the transit authority? I think about people with disabilities being able to navigate those spaces now, having micro-location available to them. It’s a very interesting technology, but as you know, these things change very quickly. Now with the combination of our technology teams and what was previously Control Group, we are able to really effectively vet all these new technologies to find out the value of them.

You mentioned the Party Train and also the Uniqlo example. Anything else that you wanted to highlight?

There was one that Bacardi ran, once again leveraging social media with hashtags. It’s interesting, one of the common themes with some of these campaigns is how it’s taking an experience from another location and bringing it to the consumer as opposed to waiting for the consumer to come and experience it where it naturally lives. The Uniqlo for example was to promote a new Uniqlo store that was opening in market. Instead of waiting for people to come to that store when it opened, they brought the experience of being in Uniqlo to the riders in that train. The Bacardi thing was bringing in a Bacardi experience to people on the rail platforms and once again in Chicago. There was a DJ and there were people dressed as brand investors holding up frames that you could get your picture taken and upload for a chance to win some VIP experience. It was actually part of the Lollapalooza in Chicago.

Then also Montana Tourism in Chicago did something where, once again, they brought the experience of being in Montana to Chicago by these staircases leading down into the subway surrounded in glass. Those were wrapped to give you a panoramic view of what the Montana countryside looks like. Then on top of those were 3-D cutouts of different wildlife, huge animals from Montana. When you see something like that obviously people stop, they notice, it’s disruptive, they take pictures with their mobile devices, they upload to social media so it ties into mobile and social. These things are very impactful; as a matter of fact the Montana tourism, after the campaign was over they boxed up the animal cutouts in crates that were actually opened so they looked like they were animals being taken back to their natural habitat. They were taken on flatbeds so it gave an additional layer of experience to people as they saw those driving down the highway on the way back to where they were going to be stored.

We see things like that, that are very experiential. Something else that comes to mind immediately is that Peapod campaign we ran a couple years ago where we built virtual grocery store aisles on rail platforms and in stations. Where you saw the products and there were codes that you could scan with the mobile app to actually schedule delivery of those products through Peapod to your home. Once again, sort of a large format immersive experience. Truth be told, I don’t think that Peapod sold a huge amount of groceries in those experiences. What it did do is it was so different and experiential that there was huge amount of PR that surrounded that and that increased awareness about discovery and how mobile and Out of Home can enhance that.

It increased their mobile sales 50 over the course of running the campaign. Those are really huge success stories in terms of what we’re talking about; having mobile overlaid with out of home and the huge canvas that the media of out of home offers. I know we’re only scratching the surface of a lot of this stuff and we are forging ahead with figuring out new things we can do. I think with the new opportunity that we have at Intersection, the guys in the labs there are coming up with all kinds of new products that will figure out how we can have the brands do that to connect them to consumers. Also how it will enhance people’s experience in these public spaces in ways that we never thought of before.

Lastly, I want to ask about the rebrand. Titan was such a well known name. Why Intersection?

We understand that public space and technology are coming together now in a way that was never possible before and in a way that is going to incredibly improve people’s experience, especially in cities. You look at demographic studies going into the future and you see the population shifting more and more away from suburban and rural experiences into urban experiences. There’s a huge opportunity, especially as you look at cities with aging infrastructure to re-invent that infrastructure in a way that it’s going to satisfy a lot of the needs of these populations that will be in these urban centers.

It made a lot of sense for our 2 companies to come together because we’re going to start to be able to understand problems and solve them in a way that other companies won’t be able to do. They may see a problem but don’t have the technology side to be able to solve it or they may be a technology company that knows how to make a lot of great widgets but don’t know the problems that people face in these environments.

We want to make things great in the physical world and we will support that with advertising revenue, which is great because now we’re not taking tax dollars to do these things.

About The Author
Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.