As Out-of-Home Ad Sales Grow, MDC Launches EnPlay

Startup leverages digital, traditional outdoor messaging

Seeking a foothold in the fast-growing out-of-home advertising space, MDC Media Partners has launched EnPlay Media, a standalone, technology-focused OOH communications company.

EnPlay is led by partners Lauren Barbara, Connie Garrido and Melissa Lerner, and initially works for MDC clients including AMC Networks, Audible, Arby's, Timberland and Vans. The leadership team previously worked together at Aegis Group's Posterscope, where Garrido served as Americas CEO from 2010 to 2014, and Barbara and Lerner held senior management roles.

Martin Cass CEO of MDC Media Partners, originally brought Garrido aboard with the notion of buying an existing OOH practice. But, after due diligence, they decided it made more sense to build a practice from the ground up. "This was a very logical step for us," Cass said. "At the core of MDC is creativity, and OOH provides a wonderful canvas to express yourself."

The unit will help clients fashion cutting-edge campaigns, often across two screens, combining OOH and mobile media for maximum impact, Garrido said. EnPlay will handle planning and buying chores, working with MDC sibling shops for content development. "Things get complicated in the media landscape," she said, "but we're small enough to be nimble." And they plan to bring in partners like Vistar Media to help make OOH buys more targetable and predictive.

Garrido explained how it works: "Suppose a client is looking to reach trendsetters in New York. EnPlay is able to leverage their technology and data assets to build a custom audience based on relevant physical world behaviors, like visiting certain stores and restaurants. Enplay has created a solution for clients to programmatically activate media to reach these custom audiences across digital out-of-home, traditional out-of-home, and even mobile based on consumers' movement patterns."

Given its recent performance, driven by the convergence of outdoor and digital media, OOH seems like a wise investment for MDC. Per Magna Global, domestic OOH ad sales grew more than 4 percent in the first half of 2015, compared to 1.6 percent for all media types. For the full year, OOH should rise 3.3 percent, outperforming the U.S. market as a whole, which is forecast to grow 2.2 percent. In 2016, growth in outdoor will slow somewhat, with sales expected to improve 2.3 percent, Magna said.