TechBytes with Daniel Dawson, CCTO, Grand Visual

TechBytes with Daniel Dawson, CCTO, Grand Visual
TechBytes with Daniel Dawson, CCTO, Grand Visual

Tell us about your role at Grand Visual and the team/technology you handle.

I head up all creative technology projects at Grand Visual and I am lucky to have a diverse team with a broad spectrum of creative, technical and coding backgrounds to work with.

Besides working on our own AdTech platforms and systems, we also explore, implement, and hone a whole range of innovative engagement techniques such as Augmented Reality, Touch & Gesture, Face Tracking, Video, and Mobile to drive interactions. Engaging stories allow consumers to change or personalize experiences in various ways, creating greater brand recall and changing consumer behaviors.  

What were the most significant technological advancements in the OOH industry in 2018?

There have been some high-profile advancements in the testing of programmatic platforms for automated media trading. A significant and necessary step forward for the industry, in terms of connecting real programmatic media to programmatic creative — the holy grail.

What are your predictions on the state of AdTech in 2019?

AdTech systems are already changing the way brands plan, book and use the OOH medium. OOH specialists have begun to buy a sustained presence across the year for heavy OOH users such as McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Google, with these brand’s implementing a longer-term intelligent planning approach across their brand and product portfolios. In 2019, these backend AdTech systems will make huge steps in terms of their interoperability. This will see improvements across inventory management, transactional exchanges, data management, creative logistics, creative optimization and, of course, reporting, all areas for systemization. Consolidation of networks, agreement on standards, and system integration will show DOOH gearing up to be a real force this year.

How would the AdTech industry further grow with the maturity of data science and analytics?

In the DOOH space, we are rich in data. While data aggregation and uniformity is still a challenge, especially with some campaigns using up to 15 separate data feeds, we have the benefit of permanent screen technology and can, therefore, build a data picture of the location, the changing conditions, and audiences. Audience insights boost our ability to make advertising creatives contextual and relevant, and more impactful. It also enables targeted out-of-home ad buys, which are only activated when the conditions are right, leading to improvements in audience targeting efficiency.

Real-time campaign reporting from third-party verification platforms such as PlayTrack also offers advertisers the ability to assess campaign success and optimize creative on the go. This level of transparency and accountability is crucial for the programmatic future of digital OOH. Further down the line again — increased data sharing through the blockchain will fuel omnichannel and omniscreen campaigns with much smarter cross-platform audience planning. With more electronic devices in everyone’s pockets, connected, cross-platform digital platforms campaigns will become a programmatic reality.

Tell us more about QDOT.

QDOT is an AdTech business designed to facilitate smart, scalable campaign management for digital OOH. These digital-asset management tools were originally developed and used as in-house processes, for Grand visual clients. But as the market grew and evolved to become a flexible, tactical, and real-time platform, just like other digital mediums, OOH required the infrastructure and creative toolkits to handle the growing volume of creative. That’s why we launched QDOT and opened up our platforms and services to the entire market.

To deliver Spotify’s Wrapped campaign, for example, over 7,640 personalized playlists were shared globally. OpenLoop, the smart campaign management platform from QDOT, allowed users to submit their personalized Wrapped stats and see them published on iconic digital billboards around the world. OpenLoop ingested the data and automated the delivery just moments later. Before OpenLoop, campaigns like this would have been a logistical nightmare. It’s about providing ease of use and driving creativity.

How did you prepare for the execution of the ‘Wrapped’ campaign?

Spotify sent us a version of their data schema and a mock-up of the creative. We tested the schema across our platforms and suggested refinements. Our software is very versatile and is able to ingest feeds to match them against physical locations and media plans. Pairing this with our creative and content development made the whole process very smooth for us and the client.

At Grand Visual, how do you combine creative technology with data? Could you lead us through your data analytics operations before launching any DOOH/OTT campaigns?

Data crafting is part of what we do. We evaluate all the sources of data that are available and decide how and what to use in order to enhance the brand story and bring the campaign to life. It’s not about using data and technology for the sake of it, we approach data carefully with the brand story always at the heart of what we do. It’s rule-based and creative-driven data science.

How do you prepare for an AI-focused world? Which technologies are you most keen to learn more about?

Grand Visual’s job is to craft creative stories based on the data sources available. So, we’re interested in Machine Learning algorithms and Predictive Analytics based on historical data. Both on a media buying level as well as content creation. If we can predict consumer behavior — we can base messages on real-world outcomes.

Unified programmatic planning and creative optimization is the end goal, where Planning, Buying, Distribution, Playback, and Reporting are programmatically achieved using real-time audience information and data insight to drive the decision-making process. So. right now creating standards, is a core challenge for the industry. Globally agreed standards for independent 3rd-party verification of advertising play-outs (down to a panel and individual play level), will support the growth of the digital OOH market globally. Making it easier to run digital campaigns at scale across all digital OOH channels.

Thank you for answering all our questions!

Daniel Dawson heads Creative Technology at Grand Visual and has designed, developed and directed projects that have entertained millions since Grand Visual began life over 14 years ago. His aareer highlights include being part of the inter-agency team, which successfully delivered the first fully programmatic digital OOH trial, plus directing award-winning interactive and augmented reality work that has taken him around the world for brands such as Google, Disney, Pepsi and McDonald’s.

Dan is on the Cannes Lions Digital Future Council following the massive shake-up of the digital OOH category he helped engender last year. Dan is also a regular on the judging line up for the Creative Circle Awards and has featured on “Click,” the BBC’s flagship technology program. He is also a regular contributor to ExchangeWire, and the OAAA, and was named in the ‘Hot 100’ most influential digital figures by the British Interactive Marketing Association.

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Grand Visual is an award-winning production company providing creative services for digital OOH. Made up of experts in creative, technology, production, storytelling, and digital marketing, Grand Visual crafts compelling stories, which maximize the effective use of digital OOH for advertisers and agencies around the globe.

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