After Year One on the Technology Side, What this OOH Agency Veteran has Learned
Norm Chait Q&A with OOH Today
OOH Agency Veteran Discusses His First Year
in the Technology Side
Norm Chait Q&A with OOH Today
director of out-of-home product/sales at Ubimo
Questions and Answers with Norm Chait,
director of out-of-home product/sales at Ubimo, a Quotient brand and Brent Baer, Publisher, OOH today
Brent Baer: It is your one-year mark at Ubimo. Has it been a ‘long year’ or ‘fast year’? Why?
Norm Chait: Yes, it was a year at the end of May—so a year and some change. Overall, I feel like it’s whipped by. It’s hard to imagine feeling like a veteran after only a year, but so many great people have since joined the team and we’ve undergone many changes, so I feel like I’ve seen it all at this point.
It has been busy. The Ubimo acquisition by Quotient happened in November of last year, and now we have the infrastructure and support of a much larger public company including more resources, more stability, more bandwidth—more everything! I am thankful for that.
BB: What have you learned in the last year? Please detail specifics regarding what you have learned from Ubimo and their product line?
NC: My background comes from the agency side— for more years than I want to admit, but close to 20 years. There, I was in a more traditional, direct buying role for out-of-home (OOH) — standard printed billboards and OOH inventory, etc. Even as digital started to infiltrate the space in a huge way, we were still just buying it all direct— straight IOs, no audiences, just proximity.
What I’ve learned from my time at Ubimo is how incredibly sophisticated and effective OOH can be when combining it with certain technologies. I learned how to apply audience-based buying to OOH, how to propel the ability to buy inventory programmatically – I’ve gotten to see where the industry’s going. I’m seeing the media industry’s digital spend continuing to look positive, with more and more money each year being spent programmatically. Digital OOH (DOOH) is an important part of that trend.
So, how do we apply those learnings to help support the buyers who come from my background? I believe the answer is by sharing the value of buying audience-based inventory programmatically, because with all its benefits, which include an ability to be much more dynamic, nimble, and the cherry on top—measurable.
BB: What have you learned about the OOH Industry that you were not aware of prior to moving to the data side? a. Learned About agencies and b. Learned about OOH Owners?
NC: I felt as though I knew everything there was to know about the OOH industry just because of the amount of years, the number of categories and brands I’d worked on, and how I tried to promote its growth. But I now see I was just getting started.
When it comes to the adoption of programmatic buying, there can be a pretty big gap, even within specific media owner and agency groups. As for the media owners, there are some who saw the writing on the wall and embraced programmatic dollars in order to keep their teams relevant. They also recognized that programmatic trade desks could be starting to take away their OOH dollars because, for them, it’s just another impression and another screen.
On the agency side, there are specialist teams who really know the difference between board A and board B and which is the better screen of the two. There is a risk that they can begin to lose or retain business as the process became automated and screens were bought based on audiences by a digital planning team. The teams who are spending the time to dig into it are training their people and partnering with platforms like Ubimo to enable themselves to keep their dollars in-house.
The bottom line is programmatic buying helps keep budgets intact. When I was on the buying side, I would think, “Yeah, yeah programmatic. Is it Programmatic for the sake of programmatic? Is there any value in it? Is it just about pricing?” I was probably, in many ways, in the same learning stages as some agencies are today. Since I’m on the front lines now, I realize the value, precision, and sophistication programmatic DOOH can offer.
The seller and vendor sides are shifting as well. Instead of being asked, “Hey, send me your billboards in hip and trendy neighborhoods.” They’re saying, “Hey, I’m trying to reach gamers,” or people who do X, Y or Z behavior.” The fact that their RFPs are shifting from solely location to purchase history behavior, affinities and visitation is an indication that the industry is moving in this direction.
BB: Tell us about the ‘current OOH landscape’ and the opportunities it’s provided through the quarantine. If you see any upward movement in revenues, tell us specifically what it is, because we do not see it.
NC: When COVID hit and everyone was being told to shelter in place, being in the OOH industry I was like, “What are we going to do now?” As we brainstormed ideas and directions we quickly realized we’re sitting on robust mountains of data that can help us understand how audiences are behaving across the entire country in relation to OOH.
Ubimo worked quickly to create a dashboard to track exposure to OOH properties with fresh data updated weekly. It includes both street-level and place-based venues with malls, gyms, doctors’ offices, and more. This dashboard has allowed us to track recovery and areas of opportunity, demonstrating to clients, advertisers, and potential investors in OOH where and to what extent audiences are exposed.
Through this data, we were able to show that during pre-COVID times we were reaching seven out of 10 shoppers with OOH. Once COVID-19 hit, understandably the numbers went down—but only to six out of 10, which is still a pretty sizeable number. We believe that when people leave their homes now, they’re making planned, purposeful trips to the grocery store or essential businesses. They’re going there to stock up for their families and coming right back, not making multiple stops or shopping for food on the way back from work.
This offers a perfect opportunity to continue to stay connected with shoppers in a meaningful way and reinforce brand purchase, whether it’s a category leader or a challenger brand fighting to stay top-of-mind.
Another value we’ve witnessed is all the advertising dollars from insurance, entertainment, auto, and more are shifting elsewhere, being canceled or pushed back. There’s an opportunity now for other categories to have a larger share of voice and resonate with people who are purposefully shopping and thinking about those very brands and categories while en route to the store.
BB: I am not a big fan of asking about the future in generalized terms like “What’s ahead for OOH post-COVID?” Particularly it is not a question for someone new to the industry, yet it is just the question most interviews stumble into because they want to spin the interview to a positive whether false or true. Since you have years in the Industry, your answer has more experienced based insights, we would like to hear your response. Please give it perspective to your years in the Industry.
NC: What’s next for OOH? Everything that I see points to rapid expansion and programmatic buying.
Major agencies are projecting more and more increase in programmatic spend, so they are ramping up their skillsets to prepare for that. Now that OOH can be part of the digital conversation, it can be an essential part of any omnichannel campaign and I expect that to happen even more as advertisers look to engage at every touchpoint of the customer journey
BB: Your client list is an impressive group. Tell us how each uses Ubimo, how often and how Ubimo generates revenue from each. I realize you cannot list specific revenue but in general terms, how generates reves from each.
NC: We have unique solutions for all parts of the business, and I think a unifying thread across all our clients is that they realize we’re using location intelligence and robust audience insights to inform our purchase behavior.
If it’s a seller who has a certain amount of assets that they’re trying to position in the best possible light to an agency or client, they’re using our platform to index against desired behaviors and how well their billboards perform.
When they’re getting RFPs from an advertiser, they can share boards ranked from highest to lowest based on specific interests or commonalities like audiences who drive a Honda, frequent travelers, haircare purchasers, etc. This allows them to accurately justify why they recommend a set of specific boards.
On the agency side, buyers can confirm a set of board or screen recommendations. The agencies and buyers that we partner with can tap into their database of OOH properties and index them in the same exact way against those audiences. The buyer can then go back into the marketplace and say to the media owner, “These are the boards that we’re interested in. They seem to over-index against the behaviors that we’re trying to reach. Are they available?”
Both agencies and vendors use our platform to uncover what the right assets for them are, and what’s the data behind it.
The buying community is also using us to activate DOOH programmatically. We can access and index anything across the country that’s fixed inventory: traditional printed billboards, bus shelters, anything that’s in the OOH space. Once they want to activate programmatically, we use our DSP that allows us to activate immediately with DOOH. We believe in transparent models and that’s what our platforms are based on.
BB: Let’s talk about Ubimo’s Planning tool and Programmatic DOOH campaign activations: Programmatic as an industry claims many different numbers of success measurements. Few share real numbers in terms of actual dollars placed and actual revenues. Are you able to share those dollar amounts? Assuming you will not answer/not be able to address that last question; we will just say we believe the actual programmatic numbers are significantly less than claimed by the category. As we speak to the agencies and OOH owners they whisper to us that it is less than 1%. Discussing what the category has done, really is going to be moot discussion if one is unwilling to share actual dollars generated. So while we may not agree on the percentage of real dollars placed programmatically; Can we agree on the fact that programmatic has disappeared from the world for the last 3 to 4 COVID months? Shouldn’t programmatic have been able to place some recognizable amount OOH business during the last 4 months? Has Ubimo placed quantifiable dollar wins in the last few months?
NC: We have seen new business come in from traditional media budgets where campaigns may have been canceled, shifted or renegotiated. We had a successful quarter. This is a result of being able to leverage data to uncover insights around shoppers and behaviors to give clients the confidence that their messages will be seen and will connect with the right audiences at the right times. Buying OOH programmatically helped enable this growth.
Advertisers have been very active over the past few months as consumers continue to shop at retail, pharmacy, and grocery stores. As those specific brands continue to “move boxes”, they’re spending in order to stay in front of their consumers and they’re trying to reinforce the brand loyalty.
Without quantifying any specific dollar amounts, I can say we’ve seen year-over-year growth due to the flexibility, pricing, efficiency, and automation.
BB: What is the single most important change the OOH industry must make, to pull itself out of the 4% rut of the last several years?
NC: Although OOH has historically been a real estate business, universal adoption of an audience-based approach versus relying solely on proximity and real estate should help take it from 4% to 5 or 6% and greater. Selecting the right inventory against an actual consumer and/or behavior, and measuring it takes things to the next level.
Contact information for Norm and Ubimo
Norm’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/norm-chait-8369965/
Ubimo’s website: https://www.ubimo.com/
Ubimo’s dashboard: https://www.ubimo.com/covid-ooh-dashboard/