We catch up with Niall Sallam, founder and CEO of Elevision Media, a digital out-of-home media network providing digital screens in elevators of residential and commercial towers, to see if brands are ready to up their game and take advantage of the medium.
Tell us a bit about Elevision and how it has grown
We started the company in 2011 launching our pilot phase with towers on the Palm and Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT). The following year, our objective and focus was to create a critical mass both in terms of viewership and network size, which meant more R&D, and a review of certain processes.
2013 was subsequently our biggest year with 690 percent network growth. At the time, we weren’t focused on revenue growth per se; we just wanted to create a critical mass. By 2014 we had that critical mass operating in 75 towers, which allowed us to target advertisers and agencies. As a result, we saw triple digit revenue growth over 120 percent in 2014 and now in 2015 we are going to be refocused again on network growth and are projecting to double the size of the network.
Today we are in 79 towers and we plan to add another 80 to 100 towers to the network. We’ll do this in the first three quarters in Dubai and will look towards Abu Dhabi in Q4.
How has outdoor as a medium changed in the last few years?
The region owns many traditional advertising platforms and standard large formats, such as hoardings and billboards on Sheikh Zayed Road, will always have a place in the media mix. But Digital out of home (DOOH) is growing phenomenally in the West and I think we will close the gap here soon enough. Currently it’s the result of not having enough DOOH networks here. But healthy competition is coming into the market place that is creating a wider appetite for the medium.
So it becomes an educational process, evangelizing [people] to the DOOH capabilities. Last year was focused on that: meeting with direct clients, meeting with agencies, working together on promoting the product, letting advertisers know what the value proposition is
As a consequence, customers are understanding what differentiates us from static and are beginning to tell stories on a digital platform. The new digital unipoles on SZR are a perfect example of this. Damas, for instance, is executing and taking advantage of the medium perfectly.
What are some of the problems or challenges you face?
The biggest challenge is awareness. If you don’t live or work in our towers, you might not know we exist. Whereas if you drive up and down Sheikh Zayed Road, you are familiar with the properties when they are presented as part of a media plan.
Once we have the opportunity to showcase our screens and network there’s very little objection. We haven’t had any agency or direct advertiser say no because the medium speaks for itself. When it comes to DOOH, you have a captive audience that’s distraction-free and you see a high level of repeat impressions. On average, Elevision viewers will see each ad one and a half times a day, so the message retention is there and as long as the ad content resonates with the viewer, it’s very effective and brands are beginning to take that on board.
How does DOOH fare in terms of cost-effectiveness versus static billboards?
On a per viewer basis, we’re in line with all of our competitors. It really comes down to viewership. A banner on Sheikh Zayed Road may be anywhere from 175,000 to 250,000AED for a month and you’re reaching approximately 300,000 cars a day. There’s a lot of wastage there. With Elevision, you can get our entire network for a fraction of that amount.
We also break our network into residential and commercial networks and within each we have ‘circuits’. As an advertiser you can choose to advertise on the entire network or just the residential or commercial networks. For hyper targeting you can leverage circuit located within networks the cost for which depends on how many buildings are taken. Other than that, there are slight variances, such as, Downtown Emaar’s per screen rate is higher than JLT based on the fact that viewers have a higher income bracket and more disposable income.
Which are some of the clients you’ve worked with?
We’ve worked with brands in almost all industry verticals. From BMW, Mini, Audi, to The Westin, JW Marriot and Ramada hotels. We also regularly air campaigns for Du and Etisalat, as well as government agencies such as the RTA and DEWA. Many financial services brands such as Julius Baer, ADS Securities, ENBD and Noor Islamic have campaigned with Elevision.
For instance, BMW launched their i8 hybrid sports car on our DIFC ticker. They also used the residential and commercial networks to run multiple messages. They had static ads that we animated; they incorporated some of the TVCs; and we also ran press releases on the news section. So they used every component of our screen and provided us with multiple pieces of content. That’s the most effective way to use DOOH and companies like BMW are using us exactly as a DOOH network should be used.
Similarly, MediaOne, provides us with tons of content and they are always rotating different messages. They’ll do [advertise in] different buildings every week and even within that week they will change the content four to five times.
How do you measure success on DOOH?
We don’t have that per click type of metric that you can measure but hotels and F&B outlets see a very real uplift in sales when running a campaign with us. Or they’ll run a campaign with us for a specific outlet and specific promotion and they’ll see the results.
Are you looking at including more innovative technology to provide better insights and analysis to your clients?
The technology definitely exists and we’re studying and researching specific solutions. It is being used quite a bit now in the West and we will use it with Elevision. Although right now we don’t feel we’ll see much return on the investment that this kind of technology requires. Our clients are not requesting those [specific] kinds of details yet and that’s a result of DOOH still being in the embryonic stage here in the region. As it develops and as clients start to use us more and we become part of the regular media mix then they will start demanding those metrics. And once they do, we’ll deploy the technology.
What is the kind of analysis you’re looking to provide in the future?
There are some facial recognition type technologies that can tell you the gender and age of the viewer. There’s also some technology, which takes it one step further: it will tell you the demographics of users walking into the elevator and then air an ad most relevant to them. We are [also] currently exploring technology that determines the specific details of a viewer and then adapts the content accordingly. This is further out in terms of deployment, but its exciting technology that has great potential once adopted.