What’s it like to work in outdoor advertising during lockdown in the middle of a pandemic? We asked Jean-Christophe Conti, CEO at VIOOH, about his experiences in digital out-of-home over the past few months.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m the CEO of VIOOH, a global digital out of home (OOH) marketplace. I head up a team of digital OOH and programmatic tech experts in developing and managing VIOOH’s platform, which connects OOH media owners with digital buyers across numerous global markets. The aim is to make digital OOH inventory easily accessible through programmatic trading.
We focus on the supply side, supporting media owners in their revenue diversification strategies and helping them to maximise digital budgets. We see ourselves as a world-leading supply side platform (SSP) working with the most significant demand-side platforms (DSPs) in the fast-growing global programmatic OOH sector.
I’m also responsible for driving business growth. Currently deployed in 16 markets, we’re looking to increase the number of markets where the VIOOH platform trades programmatically from seven to 12 by the end of the year.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
Working from home has definitely not slowed down the rhythm and pace of my daily routine. I’ve found that I’m actually working more without the commute to separate work from home.
As a consequence of the additional time spent working, I’ve discovered the importance of carving out thinking time to reflect and fit that into my day. For me, this takes the form of a 45 – 60 minute daily walk. Getting out into the open air gives me both the time and space I need to process information and helps me in approaching challenges with a fresh perspective.
Whatever the new normal looks like in the coming weeks and months, walking will remain a part of my routine. I can see why Steve Jobs was such a fan of walking meetings. I think they’re the way forward.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
Aside from the video conferencing platforms which have been widely adopted, the techniques I’ve employed mainly relate to my downtime. When I do not immediately see the solution to a problem, my strategy is to allow myself some time to mull it over and the daily walk definitely helps; I’m a big believer in this and feel better equipped to make important work decisions when I take a step back. I’ve also rediscovered my love of cooking, revisiting some of my signature dishes, something I would not normally have found time for during the week.
Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?
It’s been heartening to see so many companies, large and small, pledge their support to key workers and communities during the pandemic. From Coca-Cola’s $120m contribution to relief efforts across the globe, to Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Chanel pivoting their businesses to make protective clothing for frontline workers, and Brewdog becoming an approved supplier of hand sanitiser to the NHS, the global effort has been impressive.
In the OOH world, media owners including JCDecaux and Ocean Outdoor have been promoting public service and social good campaigns via their platforms. As well as donating free advertising to support SMEs affected by the pandemic, outdoor platforms have been used to support charities, demonstrate safe behaviours and to thank key workers.
I’ve also been amused and impressed by brands like Emily Crisps and wine-in-a-can brand Hun, who used humour to make light of their timing to launch outdoor campaigns in the middle of a lockdown.
What changes are you making to help your company connect with how clients/consumers are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
For us, communication has been vital in how we’ve been connecting with clients during this time. From early on in the pandemic, we reassured clients that our business was fully operational and that we were there to support their business during this uncertain period.
We’re also continuing to build muscle, which for us means developing our platform and improving our product to address the current and future needs of our clients. As part of this, we continue to invest in growing the team and are actively hiring.
With regards to our staff, their physical and mental health is our top priority. We’ve been engaging with our teams daily to ensure they feel supported and informed throughout.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
By the very nature of our need to stay at home over the last few weeks, the OOH sector has without doubt been badly impacted by the pandemic. However, the rise of programmatic in OOH could actually play a pivotal role in helping the sector get back on its feet.
In such uncertain times, where marketers are looking to get the most out of every penny they spend, while working in an agile and flexible way, the use of programmatic OOH can be crucial. We’re having more and more conversations about the benefits of programmatic OOH within omni-channel campaigns.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
Be bold, try new things and keep investing. It’s well documented that brands that keep investing during a crisis perform better in the long run. Marketers should resist the urge to wait and should challenge their media agencies to try new things. Despite the new normal, it’s still essential for brands to communicate with their audiences.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now for you/your clients?
ISBA and PwC’s recent report into the programmatic supply chain in video and display advertising reinforced the urgency for greater transparency in the ecosystem. As a leader in the growing programmatic OOH sector, we feel the study represents a further opportunity to learn from the challenges faced by other digital channels and avoid similar pitfalls. As an industry we should be investing in ensuring programmatic digital OOH is more transparent and measurable, fast-tracking our efforts in this direction as this will benefit the entire industry and ensure that programmatic OOH can be an unequivocal force for good.
As programmatic OOH becomes more prevalent, brands will see its impact as part of an omni-channel campaign strategy. It’s ability to be both a brand building and performance tool makes it an essential part of the media mix.
How did you end up at VIOOH, and where might you go from here?
When I got married in 1994, my wife expressed a wish not to live in the same place for more than five years. I’ve kept some of this promise, one year later, we moved to Mexico, where we stayed for five years and from there, we went to Paris for eight years, Switzerland for ten years and now London, where we’ve been for two years.
Throughout this time, I’ve held roles in various media and ad tech companies as well as telcos, managing large multi-market commercial and product teams. I spent over 10 years at Yahoo!, culminating in a role as Vice President, Partnerships Group for the EMEA region. Following this, I was Vice President managing the Publishers Business Unit, EMEA at AppNexus.
I’ve been privileged to experience different cultures and viewpoints, all of which are invaluable in my role and life today. At VIOOH, we have around 25 different nationalities and 23 languages spoken, and the diversity at VIOOH is one of our strengths. Programmatic OOH has a hugely exciting future and we look forward to playing our part in its continued growth.