Andreas Soupliotis on why interest in DOOH boomed this year

The CEO and founder of Hivestack is the final participant in our annual Wish List.

The Industry Wish List is back. MiC is looking at the issues and trends of 2021, asking industry insiders what challenges lie ahead and how brands, media companies and agencies are adjusting. See our other interviews here.

There hasn’t been a lot of good news to come out of the pandemic, yet Andreas Soupliotis, founder and CEO of Hivestack, credits the pandemic with helping the programmatic digital out-of-home ad tech company grow and expand globally into 25 different markets in the past year, onboarding 569 new partners, and hiring more than 100 employees.

Soupliotis recently took the time to sit down with MiC and shared his thoughts for the year ahead.

This interview has been condensed for clarity and length.

What were the biggest changes at Hivestack in 2021?

We’re proud to have played a role in supporting what I’m calling the “great resurgence” of out-of-home advertising amid the pandemic. When the pandemic started we all were wondering what it would mean for the industry because there were lockdowns, we’re not supposed to be outside and platforms like us only get paid if there are impressions. So if people are not outside we are not making money.

We were really concerned with what this meant, but we got really lucky because what we found is that it had a reverse effect. Because of the pandemic, we saw publishers around the world connecting to platforms like Hivestack at a faster pace than ever before in pursuit of programmatic revenues. Then on the demand side, we work with agencies. Because these agency groups had a lot of direct buys where they had bought a lot of  “upfront impressions,” they had a hard time getting refunded when the world went dark. They’ve learned a lesson, so agencies now are saying, “we want more control and flexibility over our dollars. And we’re going to therefore buy on a platform as opposed to buying direct.” Because on the platform you have a huge, big shiny pause button that you can press.

No other media channel experienced the same challenges that we did during the pandemic. So despite the initial predictions, digital out-of-home and out-of-home channels were able to adapt and thrive. So despite the major impact of travel and commuting routines, our products using COVID-19 dashboards showed us that people were still moving around in ways.

We ran an exciting campaign for the Government of Canada and Cossette, who was the agency partner, that showed that there are people that are driving around and they can be reached. We can even activate OOH intelligently targeting people that don’t seem to be exhibiting social distancing patterns. And what drove many brands and advertisers to adopt programmatic digital OOH, specifically, was the ability to provide and leverage mobile audience data to understand what the audience movement patterns were. We’re understanding how crowds and swarms of people move around.

What do you think are some developments that will be important to the programmatic industry?

I see first-party data as being incredibly important. The ability to be able to activate screens based on intelligence that retailers have on their own consumers, with the absence of third-party cookies, is going to basically mean that marketers are going to have to work really hard and bring first-party data into the ecosystem. As the cookie-erosion story starts to unfold it also means that contextual targeting makes a big comeback. So one-to-one marketing is being challenged. With the iPhone, it’s really hard to understand when a user clicks on an ad on their phone what the device ID of that user was and what did they do afterward. One-to-one marketing is being challenged, whereas out-of-home is very safe in this department. We are one-to-many, we don’t care about one person in front of a screen, what we care about are crowds and affinities and propensities. So as a result, I think contextual targeting makes a huge comeback.

If you could get the media industry to make one collective resolution for 2022, what would it be?

I would ask that the supply side of the industry have consistency across itself, think about header bidding, look at what’s happened in the other online industries – the splitting of the industries and how they have standardized header bidding that helps publishers optimize across multiple supply sources. I would hope the industry rallies behind concepts such as header bidding. It solves a major problem for publishers which is the optimization problem. That’s what we would really like to see happen: an industry move towards header bidding so that publishers have a really easy approach to monetizing sales programmatically rather than what they have to go through today to deal with so many SSPs.