Start-up Locbit Brings AdSense Approach To Digital OOH Advertising
February 25, 2012 by Dave Haynes
One of the nice spin-off benefits of organizing the Preset Mixer at DSE each year is making first contact with people and companies I don’t know at all. There’s always a handful of unfamiliar company names that pop up in the EventBrite registration list, and I usually trace back the email addresses to see what they are all about.
This year, I noticed a few names from a company called Locbit, which is based in the San Diego area. The company website takes a minimalist design and information approach online, so I sent a note over to one of the contacts, found out a little more, and decided what they are up to was well worth a Q&A post.
Locbit does what I think Google would be doing in this sector if hyper-local Digital OOH revenue projections were big enough to get its interest. Locbit is running an AdSense-like system and borrowing, as well, on Twitter’s 140-character approach to communications.
Boian Spassov, the CEO and Founder of Locbit, kindly fielded my questions.
Q. So I’m not familiar with you guys, but there’s a car-load of you coming over from San Diego for DSE. Can you give me a run-down on the company and what you do?
Locbit delivers real-time relevant content to digital OOH screens. We have built an algorithm that balances out information based on location, geo-meta data, and interactions. We do not own any screens, we simply stream our content to existing displays. We monetize this content through advertisements.
Last year, we did a soft launch under a different name and product offering with the intent to learn how we can make digital OOH content relevant. Locbit in its current form is the result of this learning. Our model is simple – we charge based on interaction and lubricate the bridge between digital OOH and mobile. Our system learns and gets smarter as time passes at each location.
Q – I know there are differences, but my guess is an easy way to describe this is to liken it to Google AdSense, except for digital signage. Is that a fair assessment?
Yes it is.
Q – The setup seems to be: 1 – existing ad networks or small businesses with digital signage sign up; 2 – They define an ad slot in the layout and assign HTML code that links to Locbit; 3 – They receive and accept or reject bids sent via Locbit; 4 – They get a revenue share. Correct?
Yes, but there is but there are other options than actual HTML code: URL, RSS, FLASH or XML API.
Q – Can you describe how a network or businesses with digital signs gets involved, and what they need to technically do?
Any screen owner can get involved as long as their screen(s) are connected to the Internet. Depending on the signage software used, we will provide a: unique link, URL, RSS or Flash that streams relevant content. In cases where screen owners don’t use any signage software, we recommend a signage solution.
If networks are adding screens rapidly, we can design a custom solution through our API.
Q – Is there just one ad shape and size, or several?
We recommend that networks adhere to DPAA standardization but unfortunately not everyone does. Thus we allow our content to be sized to any dimensions. The screen owner inputs their desired pixel dimensions when they sign up and our system automatically resizes the content to fit. Since our ads are strictly 140 characters or less of text, paired with a qr code and our logo, we work with all screen dimensions. Our goal is to get the highest cent per pixel.
Q – Do network operators approve or reject each ad and price? Is there a negotiation process, or is it just a yes or no?
Network operators define and can manage what types of ads are acceptable and which are not. It is clear that any given venue would not appreciate a competitor advertising within their establishment. We understand this and limit content based on business type parameters.
Our system prices the digital real estate in real-time and maximizes interactions – favoring relevance over price. We care more about the $1.50 ad, which is interacted/clicked 100 times over the $3.00 ad, which isn’t relevant and is rarely interacted/clicked.
There is no negotiation process as its pay per click. Our aim is to create a fully automated system, which delivers non-intrusive relevant text ads – that optimize the highest return on pixel.
[youtube id=”5pST3wQgbSQ” width=”600″ height=”350″]
Q. Your pitch is that hyper-local advertisers pay on a cost per action basis. Can you go into how that works and how you track that?
Locbit displays a highly targeted message based on the locational context – this message is 140 characters or less. This message is paired with our QR code and a number to text, each of which facilitate a mobile interaction – in other words a click. Advertisers select an area to advertise in, create the 140 character ad, input a url to direct the user to, set a budget and bid per click.
We track all interactions through our system. That allows us to provide the advertiser with analytics.
Q. Is that hard for advertisers to wrap their heads around?
No, advertisers are familiar with online pay per click (PPC) bidding models.
Q. Where are you deployed and how does the deployment model work? In other words, are you putting the gear in on your nickel, or is the venue investing?
Locbit is deployed in the San Diego area. We work with venues that already have screens and digital OOH networks. We do not charge the venues and networks. We bring interactivity and share our revenue. Thus, we are a content play – we can deploy through variation of methods including direct URL, RSS, Flash, or through our API.
Q. What are your growth plans?
We plan to grow across digital OOH networks via metropolitan concentration. We roll out on networks per city basis.
Q. What’s prompting you to go to DSE? Trade show, or conferences, or free drinks at the Preset Mixer?
While the prospect of free drinks is reason enough for a carload of guys to head to Vegas, we do have other plans. Aside from gaining industry insight from the trade show and conferences, we are meeting with potential partners to help expand our distribution channels.
Pretty interesting. This is another example of someone taking online technology and business models and applying it to digital signage. There are lotsa challenges, which they undoubtedly realize. You’ve got to sell this into businesses one by one by one, on both the ad buyer and screen host sides. That’s a lot of work and time. You need to scale up to be meaningful to bigger advertisers. And you have to hope Google stays on the sidelines.