The out of home (OOH) industry in the region is facing its share of challenges, including in markets such as the UAE. This has not deterred players such as Elevision Media to set up pace for growth, riding largely on the back of digital.
Back in July this year, Elevision extended an existing partnership with Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the financial hub in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region (MEASA), for digital OOH advertising solutions across the entire district, including the new retail and fashion experience, Gate Avenue.
Prior to this, Elevision largely serviced the DIFC area with its elevator screens, the exception being the DIFC ticker, an LED screen, which at 96 meters long and 1.3 meters high is among the longest outdoor digital signs in the Middle East.
In the new 10-year contract, Elevision has officially moved out of the elevators. As part of the contract, it is installing more than 80 large format digital display screens across DIFC, growing the existing DIFC network to over 140 screens. “The screens will launch in three phases,” informs Niall Sallam, Founder & CEO of Elevision Media, explaining, “The first will include the existing DIFC district building and the Gate Village; phase 2 will be the Gate Avenue mall, and phase three will be along the roadside, at Happiness Street and Al Sukuk Road.”
Mr Sallam believes the development validates Elevision’s strategy. “It aligns with both Smart Dubai 2021 and DIFC’s 2024 that underpin innovation and technology in business growth. Any company not investing in innovation in this region, will suffer,” the CEO warns.
While Dubai is Elevision’s mainstay market at present, the immediate next is Abu Dhabi. The company also has markets such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in its expansion plans but is cautious in approach. “We are laying the groundwork as we speak but we would consider the overall economic conditions before stepping out,” Mr Sallam says.
For now, his advice for OOH players is to make technology work better for advertisers so that more ad dollars convert to digital OOH solutions.
Of Brands & Returns
Like other sectors, technology has been changing OOH as well. The layering of digital with OOH has created the multiplier effect for brands from early days. As the medium evolves, transparency and accountability have become critical according to Mr Sallam.
“Digital OOH is nothing if not place-based media, and it affords us the opportunity to understand audiences. We have been investing in technology to better understand audience demographics for better returns,” he informs.
For OOH players, understanding their audience may be easier in community centric setups such as malls, offices or residential towers, but difficult in more generic locations. “There may be some sense for the likes of a Dubai Media City but for the equivalent of Sheikh Zayed Road, brands are dealing with a much more diverse audience set,” he says.
To assist brands, Elevision has invested in technology that can identify gender, age and more specific parameters, such as nationalities, as well. “This technology helps marketers be more targeted and eliminate wastage. It allows brands to focus on content, be location oriented and develop strategies that consider time of day, day of the week and so on. It opens up a whole new avenue of opportunities to connect relevantly,” he adds.
Not ‘Bad’, Not ‘Short’
Elevision has not cut down its investments, stating it has had a steady year. “For traditional OOH, it has been tough, as they have had to combat with large production costs, adherence to tenders, minimum guarantees and the likes. We bucked the trend because budgets were being shifted to digital, and we benefitted,” Mr Sallam divulges.
Asserting that it’s tough to holistically term a year good or bad, he explains that OOH and digital OOH players’ fates in the region are decided more by available asset and nature of supply.
“Any OOH company that has more static assets in any one location is likely suffering right now. But we can see change. So many old signs are getting digitized. It’s exciting but it’s scary. There is heavy upfront investment and cost of inventory will come down,” he points out.
Mr Sallam explains that digital OOH is becoming more about the volume than dependence on limited number of advertisers. It is asking players to cater to multi price points to survive. The sector will not deliver on short term gains but promises long term dividends.
“We are in it for the long haul. And by continuing our investments in innovation, technology and audience, not only will we be able to drive more ad budgets to digital, but we will also be future ready,” he concludes.