Our London Digital Signage Week Q&A with Adrian Cotterill

Rob Côté | May 23, 2019

Another London Digital Signage Week (LDSW) has come and gone, and we thought we’d check in with one of the organizers, DailyDOOH’s editor-in-chief Adrian Cotterill, to get his take on how it all went. Check out our Q&A below for his take on the event, its place in the industry, and things to watch as the OOH space continues to develop.

I’d like to start with getting a quick impression from you about this year’s (2019) LDSW. What’s your take on how it went? What do you think were the standout events?

Probably not as big as usual, the week, mainly because we’ve had a lot of consolidation in the year with the three big media owners here in the UK. And then the other big media owners have been focusing on other things, either joining the stock market or, as in Clear Channel’s case, divorcing from a parent, joining the US stock market, and then rearranging their European region. So, I think the in the outdoor media space, the big boys have had other things to occupy themselves, so from that perspective, it meant that the week was a little bit quieter than it has been.
Our own event, which is a standout, is the AdTECH event, AdTECH: OOH London. We’ve run that conference three times now, once in Amsterdam and twice in London. It’s always sold out. I think that says a lot about AdTECH, programmatic buying, automation, ad exchanges, etc. Certainly, that’s the hottest topic in our space by a long way.

Which lessons or ideas shared at this year’s events did you think were the most insightful or thought-provoking?

I think our data panel at the AdTECH conference was probably the standout session of the week. It’s pretty much because, if you like, there’s the old guard which have measured out-of-home on one hand, and then there’s all these new, or new to us, data startups that are measuring our world in a completely different way. So that particular panel, which took place at the AdTECH conference on the Wednesday was… let’s say it was lively. Everybody enjoyed it, but it was the most lively panel, the most interesting panel as the two worlds collide.
It’s interesting; I think the data panel at that AdTECH conference can sum up our industry. It’s very much old and new meeting in the middle. Because we all know we can measure things in a completely different way, don’t we now?

You’ve noted that there were several big announcements, including our acquisitions of Ayuda and Campsite, that dropped just prior to LDSW this year. What do you think those big stories say about the current state of the OOH/DOOH space?

Consolidation is key. It says everything about consolidation. Not only did Broadsign buy Ayuda in the software space; Beaver Group, which is a UK-based but European-in-nature digital content agency, was acquired by a Spanish company with €60 million revenues in a year. Last year they bought another reseller in the space. Big consolidation, and these are big companies. You know, people are creating €50-60 million turnover businesses. So consolidation is key on the software and services side.
And then on the other side, we had to deal with all the consolidation going on in the out-of-home world as well. Obviously Global has acquired Primesight, Outdoor Plus, and Exterion Media, and the Exterion Media deal was given the green light by the competitions authority literally the week before London Digital Signage Week. And then there’s obviously big things happening with Clear Channel in the US, which has affected Clear Channel in the UK and Europe. So, consolidation both on the software and services side and in the media owner space.

As an observer of the industry, what is your opinion on this consolidation? What is your opinion of how it affects our industry?

Consolidation is good, I would say. We’ve got almost a thousand software vendors. We don’t need a thousand software vendors, we need four or five, and we need a couple competing in each vertical sector.
I think, if you look at any other mature industry, there will be two or three dominant players in that industry, and that’s what we need. So consolidation is good, and it’s only going to mean that our industry is going to become more mature, and it’s going to look more mature to the outside world, which helps us as well. The software thing of Ayuda being bought by Broadsign is one of the best things ever. We’ve now got, probably, four or five big groups with multi-million dollar revenue in a year, and that’s the position we need to be in.

London Digital Signage Week has origins in a remark at the 2013 DailyDOOH Gala Awards. Dirk Hülsermann suggested the event would be a good idea, and said “London is the place to be for media.” Six years on, do you think that statement about London holds up?

No. Dirk’s call to arms at the Black Tie Gala Awards in December was a reaction to the fact that we had one in New York and didn’t have one in London, and he said that we should have one in London the next May, which we did, in 2014. But it’s not as big as North America. There are lots of reasons for that. I think North Americans by their very nature probably enjoy open-house cocktails, networking, talking, doing small presentations, pop-up events… It’s more in their DNA, perhaps, than it is for European people.

What about your event? How would you describe its evolution over that time, and what role do you see LDSW playing in the London or global OOH space today?

That’s a good question, and we’ve covered some of that. I think the two things go hand in hand. London Digital Signage Week would be nothing if we didn’t have New York Digital Signage Week. I think what role they play is in the fact that they allow people to get together, network, and put on their own events for little or no cost. That’s the key thing. Our big issue is at trade shows. You’re going to spend, you know, $50,000 minimum if you do something at a big trade show. With the week, you can do a pop-up event for little or no cost. You can hire out a hotel room. I think that’s where it plays a role.
I will say, one surprising thing is that 50% of our audiences in London are international. Well over half of the people who attend the events are non-UK-based people. You’re not just meeting the same old names you know. This year, we had people from Iceland, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, Croatia, Sweden, Australia – some pretty far-flung places. If you go back to Dirk’s statement, “London is the place to be,” I would say that a lot of Europeans do see London as the place to be. They come to London, they want to network with people there, they want to see what’s on offer, they want to learn. It’s an easy place to go, it’s a fun place to go. From that perspective, Dirk made a statement that was a correct prediction.

What are some of the OOH industry advancements you foresee that you’re most excited for?

Data, I think, has to be the most exciting thing. It’s also the most problematic, hence all the privacy concerns and all the face recognition stuff. Being able to slice and dice massive amounts of data, I think, is the most exciting thing for our industry. Not only does it allow us to measure things we’ve never been able to measure before, but it also allows us to target things that we’ve never targeted before. I would say that’s the most exciting thing.
And then one thing that we sort of foresee, the one trend that is going to have to come, is a thing called revenue management. So although everybody has been talking about programmatic buying and marketplaces, automation, and AdTECH in general, very few people are thinking about revenue management software that figures out how you make the most money from the inventory you’ve got. Global here in the UK have got a really good platform called DAX, because they have inherited it from their radio systems. A lot of the best revenue management software is coming from the radio side of the industry. But again, that only works because it’s a way to analyze the data that you’ve got. It’s the next stage, really.

You provide a service on Twitter in correcting hashtags for seemingly all industry events, not just your own. Firstly, thank you. It’s helpful. Secondly, can you tell us a little bit about what’s behind this hobby?

We’re the hashtag police. You’re right, it’s our hobby. It’s a funny one. Our technical director and myself actually designed our sister site, called aka.tv. Aka.tv, minute by minute, takes in tweets with hashtags and analyzes them. We keep them all in a database, and we figure out what might be trending hashtags, who the most tweeted users are, etc.
My father was a policeman, maybe I get it from him. I think it’s all about having one voice. It annoys me when people are lazy with their marketing. People just throw things onto Twitter without thinking about it. You know, if you’re going to have a show and you’re going to talk on social media, then talk with one, single, unified voice. Make it as easy as possible for people to follow that conversation. You do that with a hashtag. So, basically, don’t be lazy.
We try to be as polite as we can. Sometimes we get annoyed, sometimes we’re humourous, but I think it’s helpful. A few people have told us off, but I think 99% of the world believe that it’s helpful to be corrected.

What’s next now that LDSW is in the bag? Are you giving yourself a bit of a break, or are you throwing yourself right into planning your New York and Amsterdam events?

I wish. New York Digital Signage Week is our next big week of events, and we do plan quite well in advance. If you don’t book some of your keynote speakers early, you won’t get them, because the top CEOs of these companies are booked up months in advance. So certainly our big event is New York Digital Signage Week, and we are doing a lot of work for that. But we’ve announced over the last couple of weeks that we’re doing AdTECH Sydney. This is our first foray at an event in Australia. It’s going to happen in September. September’s not very far away, only a couple of months away, so AdTECH Sydney is at the moment our top priority.

This one is unrelated to digital signage and DOOH. I understand you’re working on a book about drinking gin. Any quick tips to share?

Well, the book is a work in progress. It’s called “How to Drink Gin” and the subtitle, which I think is humourous, is “I Drunk 300 Bottles so You Don’t Have to.” If there’s a tip you want to share with anybody, it’s “Don’t overpay for a bottle of gin.” Most people can’t tell the difference between an expensive bottle and a cheap bottle.
Answers were edited for length.

About Adrian

A photo of DailyDOOH editor Adrian Cotterill speaking into a microphone
Over the past 30 years Adrian has worked for IBM, Intel, Bertelsmann and a number of investors and business angels in positions such as Chief Technology Officer, Head of Internet Technology, Business Development Director, Head of Strategy and Interactive Marketing Manager.
His work over the last ten years has involved industry analysis, market research, commercial and technical due diligence, software and hardware review, product design, branding and market entry strategy.
As well as chairing ‘The DailyDOOH Investor Conference’ in New York each October, Adrian is a much in demand speaker at events around the world and a familiar face on the judging / award circuit.
He is also chairman of the OpenSplash Steering Group, a member of MENSA, the High IQ Society and a member of the National Union of Journalists
He is the author of several books including DOOH INSIGHTS: 2008 To 2012 | Five Years Of Executive Thought (published October 2012), DOOH INSIGHTS: 2013 | The Best of 2013 (published October 2013) and co-author of ‘How MicroTiles Made An Impact At The London Stock Exchange’, co-author of ‘The Technical Guide to Windows’ and co-author of DOOH INSIGHTS: 2014 | The Best of 2014 (published October 2014).