OMC’s Alan Brydon to Stimulate Medium Growth with IPAO Alliance

Rapport sat down with the Outdoor Media Centre’s new CEO, Alan Brydon, to discuss everything from the performance of Route analysis, to family life.

You have been at the helm of the Outdoor Media Centre for a few months now. If you could promptly change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

I actually think the industry is in fantastic shape. The key thing is to get more people at advertisers, media agencies and creative agencies to have all the benefits of OOH, and all the exciting things that are happening in the medium more front of mind. To a degree, we’ve kept some wonderful secrets, and that’s what I and my team intend to change!

You come from a non-OOH background. What are your first impressions having had a chance to now see it from the inside?

I was quite heavily involved in all Havas’s OOH work so I was already very impressed by what I knew of the medium. But I have quickly realized that I only knew a small proportion – the quality of insight and thinking at media owners and specialists is really impressive. I knew it existed through my dealings with some media owners, but the breadth of clever and innovative thinking across the medium is truly impressive.

One of the OMC’s core values is centered on building strong relationships with media owners across the out-of-home spectrum. How do you ensure that the company’s culture and its activities are aligned to fulfil this?

To be clear, our relationships will be strong with media owners AND specialists. They are already, actually. I don’t think it’s difficult – it is about communication, dialogue, openness and honesty. Many years ago I worked on the Bob Hoskins BT campaign with the endline ‘It’s good to talk’, and that seems pretty good advice to me.

The general consensus is that there is a synergy between out-of-home and mobile. How much of a pivotal role do you see mobile having in the foreseeable future?

Very much so. More people than ever are out and about, for longer; they are in their most absorbent state when they are out of home; and they are nowadays always connected via their mobile devices. There is already evidence that the priming effect of OOH advertising on mobile activity is hugely beneficial to advertisers, and we’ll be doing a lot more work to demonstrate and substantiate that, and to build on the work already done in this area.

The data-based planning opportunities now possible can only take the efficiencies and effectiveness in this area even further for advertisers.

The OMC recently appointed Mark Craze as its new Chairman. What changes has Mark brought about since his arrival and how do you see these developing over the next 12 months?

Mark was the original driver of that collaborative approach that we talked about earlier, but on top of that I would suggest two things: Discipline and Passion. Mark is very decisive, and has a fantastic ability to prioritise and clarify the really important things from the ‘nice to haves’. He also has a genuine passion for the medium, which is apparent in all that he says and does.

What are your KPI’s as CEO of the OMC?

The ultimate one is to increase the share of display ad revenue into the medium.

Are you finding that brands are harnessing the benefits of digital OOH? Are they seeing the results they were hoping for?

DOOH has of course been the key area driving recent revenue growth into the medium. However I think there are still huge opportunities to enhance even further how that part of the medium is planned, bought and sold. It might be moving more away from standard campaign periods, utilising the real-time creative opportunities better, or utilising data-based planning to fine tune deployment strategies. A lot of advertisers and agencies are doing these things really well already, but the medium isn’t standing still, and nor should the ways in which it is used.

What is your take on JCDecaux pulling out of the OMC? How have your members reacted?

We all feel it was and is a great shame, we know and respect the JCD team and the door is always open for them to rejoin us.

Having come from a media agency background, what are your views on how the other trade bodies e.g. Thinkbox, IAB, RAB have marketed their respective channels? What are the key learning’s?

I think that the ones you mention, and Newsworks, have all done a great job. And certainly in all we do at the OMC we will respect the fact that those other media have an important role to play on a lot of communication plans, in various combinations.

I think that particularly Thinkbox have demonstrated that fact-based propositions and arguments are very potent, rather than just relying on ‘emotional’ triggers.

The RAB have just announced a re-brand – aimed at simplifying their offering. They’ve also recently announced programmatic trading – which raised a few eyebrows for what is primarily a non-digital channel. Do you think simplifying the OOH offering is a crucial aspect of achieving growth for the medium?

I’m not sure that ‘simplifying’ is quite the correct word – the diversity and variation of the OOH medium is actually one of its biggest assets if used well. But of course standardised and automated systems clearly can have a role to play, and can improve efficiencies and effectiveness. There are a couple of things in this area that are very significant, that we will be able to announce in due course. And these will be the beginning of an ongoing process that, yes, will ultimately mean easier and better ways for advertisers to utilise the medium

Route was meant to herald a new dawn. What are you feelings towards Route and the possibility of audience trading moving forward? Do you feel automated or programmatic buying will play a significant role in shaping this?

Route is absolutely the gold standard of industry research in this country.  The technology and sophistication involved is amazing. But there is undoubtedly a spectrum of opinions about it, and what it contributes to the OOH planning and buying process.

But within the armoury available to the OMC, Route is undoubtedly a hugely powerful Exocet. We’ll be working closely with James Whitmore and his team to maximise its impact as a marketing weapon.

Certainly Route can – and does already for some major advertisers – allow audience based deployment and trading. And yes, somewhere down the line fairly soon, automated and programmatic trading will develop in the OOH medium, and certainly Route can help in that whole area.

What challenges has out-of-home yet to overcome?

I think that the whole area of econometric modelling and ROI is the key one. But I think that pretty much everybody who raises ROI as an issue for OOH, in the very next breath also readily admits that there are correctly a number of significant concerns about the quality, accuracy and accessibility of the OOH data used in modelling projects; spends in OOH are sometimes too small to be picked up correctly; and as a powerful complementary medium, the effect is often not able to be isolated correctly.

But for all that, it remains an issue. Across the summer and beyond, I will be working with various bodies from in and outside the OOH industry to look at how best all these issues should be best resolved. This absolutely will not be trying to ‘prove’ that OOH works for everybody, all the time, on an ROI basis. Of course that isn’t true for any medium.  But if we can get a correct methodology for the medium, we can all then have sensible and worthwhile debates on a sound footing.

A number of media owners have seen extensive investment in out-of-home technology. How do you intend to keep the momentum growing from an industry body perspective?

I don’t actually think each company’s investment plans are really the business of the OMC. There is already more than enough technology benefits for us to be talking to advertisers and agencies about, and if we can use that and other things to drive revenue share, I have no doubt that those media owner companies will continue to invest.

The OMC is currently undergoing a rebrand. What changes do you see this bringing about and when will we expect to see them making an impact across the wider industry?

I think it will bring some modernity, some dynamism and some excitement to the organisation and to the medium. We want everything to be absolutely the best it can be, so we won’t rush things, but changes should happen in the autumn.

Much has been spoken of the collaboration between the IPAO and the OMC. Give us a little idea of the changes agencies are likely to expect over the next 12 months?

There will be a united and co-ordinated voice on all things, and united and co-ordinated action. The early work with them has been not only productive, but very enjoyable as well, so I think that anything we do of significance, we’d like to include and involve them on. They are pretty much totally aligned to our ultimate aim of getting more revenue into the medium, so it seems fairly obvious to do that.

Finally, what is your vision for the OMC and the wider industry within the next 5 years? Where do you feel the most significant growth will occur?

I see no reason why the OOH industry shouldn’t see very significant growth. Amongst the OMC members and the IPAO there is a massive willingness to work together for the common good. Consumer behaviour is bringing some challenges to other media, but only enhancing and benefitting OOH.

The medium provides impact, relevance, action and creative opportunities as never before…what’s not to like!

Fact File

Family life: Married for 17 very happy years, no children.

Favourite holiday destination: Anywhere hot, with nice restaurants and golf courses nearby really.

Alternative career path: Professional golfer

Hobbies: Golf…spotting a theme yet?!

We would like to thank Alan and his team for their time. We wish him all the best for 2015 and beyond at the Outdoor Media Centre.

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