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‘Programmatic will unleash the potential of DOOH’

By Rajiv Raghunath - June 21, 2021

Antonio Vincenti, CEO of Beirut-based Pikasso, leading OOH company across the Levant (Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq), North Africa (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco), and West Africa (Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali), states that programmatic will help the business to connect with new potential buyers across markets. "On a large scale, data will allow our medium to become more and more traded programmatically,” he says in an interview with Rajiv Raghunath.

Antonio Vincenti, CEO, Pikasso, LebanonPikasso has media presence in 10 countries across three regions -- the Levant, North Africa and West Africa. In most markets, OOH is seen as a highly localised medium and the media ownership is highly fragmented. Tell us, how you were able to develop your business across geographies? How do you cope with the varying OOH regulations in all these different markets?

We were able to develop our OOH business in 10 markets thanks to 3 main factors: First, we selected countries that are complementary to each other economically within the same geographical region.

Second, we benefitted from the fact that the same agencies and the same marketers are often in charge of the different markets of the same region. When the agencies are used to a specific system that they can find in a neighbouring country, they will give you a priority in their selection of OOH networks as they are happy to benefit from the same quality in multiple markets.

Third, we always brought innovations to the new markets, thus contributing positively to the development of the OOH industry, as for example the creative awards “Pikasso d’Or” or the introduction of networks based on geotargeting, or the launching of the first digital screens, etc.

Regulations are different, of course, from one country to another and we have no other choice, not only to abide by them, but to be a role model in the countries that host our investments. You mentioned about fragmented ownership, which is mainly local, and which usually has a deeply rooted networking. To counterbalance this reality, we have adopted since our early days a solid reputation of being very strict abiders of any regulation, with also a positive advisory role to make regulations evolve when they lend us their ears.

Pikasso has significant DOOH media ownership in markets like Beirut? Are you seeing any particular demand for standalone or iconic DOOH media assets in your addressable markets? And, do you see growth of placed-based DOOH media?

We have indeed the most extensive DOOH footprint within Beirut City and its Metropolitan Area with 64 Digital Billboards 4m x 3m sold by network, and with roof mounted Digital Large Format screens up to 20m x 8m. We do sell our digital screens with all the options offered in terms of flexibility: by network or by unit, for 1 day up to 1 year, for parts of day (morning-noon-afternoon-night time) over weekends, on special days, in full ownership, triggered by an element (weather, news etc.). It was a fair success, but I must admit that despite all our presentations, conferences, and contacts with marketers, the market is not yet taking full advantage of all the opportunities offered.

DOOH Iconic locations always sell well, of course, and there’s a huge demand as advertisers are always ready to pay the price for such highly sought-after locations.

As for place-based DOOH media I’m personally not a big fan of it.

Recently, Pikasso tied up with Broadsign to extend programmatic DOOH to media buyers in the Middle East markets? Is programmatic DOOH encouraging companies like Pikasso to plan bigger media investments in this space?

Programmatic will unleash the potential of DOOH as it will connect us with new potential buyers that do take full advantage of DOOH capabilities. That’s why we entered into an agreement with Broadsign to onboard our DOOH inventory. We also signed a similar agreement with Pladway, the top OOH programmatic marketplace in Italy and we’re about to announce a third big agreement next month in July.

In terms of digitisation of our assets, our investment plan is independent from our programmatic platforms’ agreements; although we know it’s an important part of our future, there are other parameters that we take into consideration. The one thing that I can share is that we’re already selecting as of today the locations that will be digitised in the next 5 years, and almost every single new Large Format location we do wish to rent must be potentially transformable.

Today, as most OOH markets remain impacted by the fallout of the pandemic, how are you navigating Pikkaso’s growth journey?

Our industry was badly hit by the pandemic indeed and we have almost never faced such a situation in our 35 years history, except with two full bans on OOH in Beirut and Amman. So, we had to take all sort of measures to ensure our sustainability as of the third quarter of 2020, when we understood that Covid was a long story.

We seized the opportunity of the reduced level of activity during 2020 to work on many internal aspects of the company in terms of organisation, the kind of things that you never have the time to address, and most importantly we have also focused on the future innovations we could bring to our markets such as the agreement with Darabase to provide cost-efficient Augmented Reality activations for agencies and clients.

We have also worked with Admobilize in order to have the most accurate real-time data for the digital large format screens within malls (all our in-mall LCD totems are already filled with cameras linked to Quividi) and we have dedicated a lot of time to our foray into programmatic.

In terms of core preparation for future growth we have won some new concessions in several countries, continued the roll-out of Large Formats in West Africa, and launched retail networks in supermarkets of 3 countries (Algeria, Mali & Iraq) by relocating the scrollers that were used in malls that are now replaced by LCD Totems.

At a broader level, what factors will contribute toward enhancing the competitiveness of OOH/DOOH business globally? Has the pandemic spurred the growth of networked DOOH media in place of classic media?

Data is and will be key to demonstrate the huge impact of OOH/DOOH. This is the main element to enhancing the competitiveness through selling audiences with proven efficiency. This will allow our medium to become more and more traded programmatically, integrating our DOOH networks de facto within the multi-channel campaigns, sourced from online-mobile-social budgets, which represent today $300 billion, 50% of total Ad spend and almost 8 folds the OOH spend.

DOOH will thrive in developed OOH markets where space is scarce, with every single location having a lot of value, and where decision markers (Mayors, Regulators, etc.) will push towards a full digitisation. It will make sense to deploy DOOH assets in prime locations of most capitals and main cities of the rest of the world. Classic OOH will always have a role even in the wealthiest markets, when you need to have an extensive national presence or when you want to have a long conservation location in full ownership for branding communication.        

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