Case Study: A New (Augmented) Out of Home Reality

Los Angeles had a reality check when it snowed for what some think was the first time in decades. The LA Rams beg to differ. Their Christmas was white, complete with snowball fights, thanks to the mixed reality production magic of ARound, which supplied an app-based experience called “Rams House AR”. That’s just one of the impressive new ways companies like Stagwell are helping bring brands to life.

Barry Frey, President and CEO, DPAA

In a series of DPAA member meetings recently, I sat down with Stagwell CEO Mark Penn and his client, Jenn Prince, Chief Commercial Officer for the Rams, followed by a chat with Horizon Media CDO Donnie Williams. Each revealed how they’re on the bleeding edge of creating new brand experiences — on site at stadiums and beyond. The following are select portions of my conversations about these innovative opportunities to raise brand love and engagement.

Mark Penn started Stagwell seven years ago with one person, and now, he shared at our DPAA meeting, in addition to an international affiliate program they’re about 14,000 people in 34 countries. The collective’s raison d’etre per Penn, is that “an older marketer needed TV ads and media placement. And a modern marketer needs an entirely different stack of items all the way down to high tech self-service.  “Just as Out of Home is no longer just billboards,” Penn pointed out, “now we’re doing the QR marketplace and a number of marketplaces across travel, across dining, across sports.”

Emblematic of some of those terrific tech products they’re building to support that stack, Penn and Prince, who oversees partnerships including sales, activation, and strategy for the Rams, walked us through a case study for “Rams House AR”, starting with the origins of how the augmented reality app came about:

“Like we did at Microsoft (and Steve Ballmer is one of our core investors) every year Stagwell invites entries for an internal “Shark Tank” and then we fund the chosen product,” explained Penn, “and Josh Beatty was the winner with this whole new approach to AR.” On it’s perfect use case for sports he added, “We realized that the stadium experiences have been the playing field for AR for a very good reason: If you’re in the stands and see someone utilizing an AR device, “you’re thinking, what’s she doing over there? So, it’s viral in a very different way than if I tried to do something in a store or an awkward place. It’s actually quite natural as part of enhancing the stadium experience.”

Since the Rams take every advantage of ways to innovate around fan-building tactics – from  grassroots watch-parties in Australia to “partnering with purpose” with State-side brands like Verizon the value of their new Stagwell-created ARound app was clear to Prince who explained that for the franchise “it’s all about the fan experience, the way we connect with our fans and future fans…but also the way our partners both commercially contract with us and get benefit from that. Rams House AR supports all those goals.”

It enables, she pointed out, “an experience that is augmented but that brings you more creativity and innovation.” But the power of Out Of Home at SoFi Stadium in particular is magnified via “the power of the environment; it’s a jaw dropping architectural specimen — in addition to having state-of-the-art technology.”

For their augmented Christmas Day stadium experience created in conjunction with Nickelodeon, Prince described it as weaving 74,000 fans into the action, including the channel’s trademark “slime” and a massive AR snowball fight (which up until this past winter was a rare activity for Angelenos!) “We believe the innovation of bringing ARound, which is in the palm of a hand, gets people to go into their app, and we get access to data and the consumer journey and all of that. And we get to really create an experience like no other.”

Prince noted: “We did not go lightly into AR” but recognized that “it’s a really great experience to help reach the masses quickly in a unique environment where it’s not just what meets the eye in in real life, in the venue or at home, but also just how you immerse yourself with our players and our brands and our IP, experience offerings, and incentives, that goes on and on.”

Adding to the media agency POV, Donnie Williams set the stage in another DPAA member conversation about how Horizon is tapping into innovation in today’s marketing eco-system. We like to say the DPAA is the global digital out of home Trade Marketing Association embracing everything now, from AR to UGC to QR codes but I wondered how Williams, known for sharp digital toolset, helps his clients break through. His complete and informative answers enlightened us all:

Today,” he told me, “the question might be less about how do you break through and more what’s different about breaking through today than it was before? And thematically I think what’s changed is there’s less preciousness in my mind around brand strategy. What I mean by that is nailing this strategic platform in order to deliver all media or all creative, or all comms in a certain direction, has become less the focus. It’s really more how do you derive insight really quickly? And then how do you distribute a message to someone that you think will benefit from your brand value proposition? It’s like, move quick, interpret performance really quick, be prepared to distribute ads in a whole bunch of different ways, stop talking about things like interoperability and start just figuring out platform-based strategies.

“And speed is why people like to work with us, in part. Speed is that you quickly go from big ideas around new business, the way prospecting has occurred historically, to now how do you action on the ground in a manner that is valuable to the brand and the marketing organization, and also for the team running the business. So, a lot of speed, a lot of data, a lot of analytics, a lot of speed type conversations. At some point it’s less about subjectivity and it’s more about objectivity.

That’s not to suggest that there’s no room for people in this stuff, but there’s a lot of signal that comes through the software that we’re using. And sure, the benefit is that you can turn around and, and kind of optimize the way you’re going to market.”

And, just as OOH is moving fast towards digital, which means programmatic and more metrics, more screens, these were his agency’s thoughts on the out of home experience and the digitization of it?

“Out of Home continues to be a huge opportunity. If you’re going to be a relevant marketer today, you’re going to have to figure out ,depending on the brand, of course, how to localize some of your marketing messaging and pull through from marketing messaging to in-store experience …And there are really very few media touches around consumers out of home, broadly digital, out of home, with some of the flexibility that allows cost efficiency. So, I think if you’re talking about relevance and you’re talking about local advertising and you’re talking about market nuance — and we have been over the past 10 years meaningfully, and in the past three years with what has been a real drumbeat around it — then it sits in a really interesting spot. And I think bringing more tools that have worked in other media channels to different distribution points is also really helpful, especially since they start to conform around measurement and media costs. So, we are bullish on the channel.

That said, our customers aren’t saying ‘I’m going to spend three times what I spent last year, and I don’t know where to put my next dollars.’ Our customers are basically saying, ‘let’s start from scratch. What should we do? How do we support all these business objectives? How do we support these data objectives?’ And relevance is a great way to start that conversation. what are the channels that are most. How can we create value that a consumer can actually realize?’

Those are ways to drive, derive more value out of marketing investment. So, I’m a big fan. And by the way, I do all this create creative award scoring, judging… And it’s always out of home stuff that’s cool. It’s always the most interesting. It’s always the most epic because of the size and scale, it’s the most iconic because of the location. It’s always super for people that are creative.”

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