Show-and-Tell Is the Name of the Game for Digital Place-Based Ad Group

CEO Barry Frey targets TV dollars through hands-on experience at industry summit

Compared to other ad-supported media, the digital side of the out-of-home media industry has enjoyed solid revenue growth. According to Miller Kaplan, digital place-based media grew 14.9 percent in the first half of 2013 over the year-ago period. But its main cheerleader organization, the Digital Place-Based Advertising Association, naturally wants to accelerate growth even more by luring video-agnostic planners and buyers to its annual DPAA Summit on Oct. 22 at the New York Hilton, the first conference under the leadership of Barry Frey, who was named president/CEO in May. Frey is a seasoned sales veteran of the TV and digital worlds who until 2012 was evp of advanced platform sales for Cablevision Systems but also has experience working for USA Network, The NBA, Hallmark Channel and Turner Broadcasting.

Frey shared his thoughts on how to grow his constituents’ business fortunes.

Where are you trying to take the DPAA?

There’s a great quote from Winston Churchill [paraphrased]: “Leadership is not necessarily pushing people in a direction; it’s understanding where they need to go and helping them to get there.” So video is now being consumed everywhere: tablets, mobile, phablets, over-the-top. According to The Wall Street Journal, consumers spend five hours in front of a screen every day—and that’s not even counting time in front of a television. Video advertising is now untethered from the main living room screen and being consumed over all these devices. Well, advertisers then have to follow the eyeballs. 

The great element—and the reason that I’m here— is that we have a litany of screens that are omnipresent, that are viewed, that are Nielsen-rated, and that can help deliver the eyeballs that were once sitting in one place in the home. And we can help advertisers, agencies, planners and buyers now recapture important video impressions via our screens. There is $73 billion of TV money spent in this country. We can deliver what TV does. 

You’re targeting TV dollars besides digital dollars and out of home, right? We believe the growth is going to come from video-agnostic dollars. If you see what’s happening at agencies, there’s video-agnostic planning and buying where the same teams involved in buying :15s or :30s or are also planning for them online. As more video-agnostic planning and buying happens, it’s a plus for our networks.

How do you change the conversation with the more traditional approach to buying and planning TV? It’s being changed—it’s a trend that’s happening alongside of us today. For instance, UM chief media officer David Cohen, who is going to speak at our conference, was in charge of all digital buying and now he’s in charge of all buying including video. So this is what’s happening at the agencies—they’re all at varying levels looking at more video-agnostic planning and buying. They need impressions somewhat irrespective of whether it’s on TV or online. We want to get into that pool [of revenue], and we rightly deserve a place there.

What about the creative side of the business? Sometimes a :30 doesn’t fit your media. How much of a challenge does the creative present?  

You could also view it as an opportunity. Part of the summit is to explain to the creative community they have a new canvas to paint on. If you look at early TV commercials, you had a radio announcer with a radio mic sitting at a desk and you turned the TV camera on. Then the creatives figured out how to really utilize this medium for creative purposes—to use it at its best. That’s where our medium will start to evolve as we have some of the best and sharpest minds coming to our summit.

How different is this year's summit from prior events?

This year we’re trying to take the summit out to a wider and more diverse audience. The two main themes are “video-centric” and “experiential.” To better explain the experiential part, I use a quote from a Chinese proverb all the time: “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” We’re going to have many of our digital place-based networks replicate their environments at the summit, so it will be a fully tactile, sensory experience. Because if you can touch it, feel it, see it, you understand it. We are expecting almost 500 people this year.

How do you convince those who are ready to spend first on Hulu or YouTube to spend on your constituency? Our screens are omnipresent—they’re in places where people dwell. Those people are not necessarily sitting soporific in front of a TV like a couch potato. They’re much more active and are in a brand-inculcation environment. They also may very well be on their way to making a purchase and may be in that last “magic mile” as they’re going to consume something. So it’s a very active consumer. And it’s not a very distracted consumer. If you’re sitting in a living room watching TV, think about how many screens are going on at that time. People may be texting, emailing, second-screening. We have these omnipresent screens that are the only focus—so there’s value in that.

What part of your experience do you draw on (cable ad sales, international, digital ad sales) for this job? All of media today is very interdependent. One needs to understand them all from all sides in order to send a message. My experience in overseeing the sales of TV, Internet and most media has enabled me to understand where we fit into the ecosystem and how we can promote ourselves within it. Also, in most of my career, I enjoyed being the evangelist. In the early days of cable, I helped Ted Turner explain the value of cable when we used to go out on sales calls. It all comes back to that Churchill quote. I just want to help people get there.