Tom Goddard On How The World Out Of Home Organization Has Seen DOOH Advertising Boom In Recent Years

August 17, 2022 by Dave Haynes

The World Out Of Home Organization has been around for decades, but under a French acronym that didn’t mean a lot to much of the world. The non-profit changed its name from FEPE International to its new handle a few years ago, and has never looked back.

It now has members from all over the globe – with outdoor advertising companies of all sizes and stripes signing on to benefit from lobbying, networking, policy discussions, standardization, research and education.

The organization also does a heavily attended global conference each year, as well as at least a couple of regional versions in APAC and the Middle East.

I had a great chat with out of home media veteran Tom Goddard, a London-based Irishman who gives his time and experience as the organization’s President and Executive Chairman.

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Tom, thank you for joining me. Where are you today? 

Tom Goddard: Yeah, nice to be here, David. I’m in sunny London. We’re having a Mediterranean type of summer, which is a hit and miss here, but we’re having a lovely summer at the moment and I’m right in Hyde Park, so I’m looking into the park and all the joggers. So it’s a lovely spot, it’s about 28 degrees, so pretty cool. 

Hopefully you have air conditioning! 

Tom Goddard: Yeah, but I hate using it. I’ve had to use it a bit lately, but yes, I do. 

So you are the head of the World Out of Home Organization? Can you give me the background on yourself and what that organization is all about?

Tom Goddard: Yeah, of course, David. For my sins, I’m President of the World Out of Home Organization, it’s an honorary reposition and the World Out of Home Organization is a not-for-profit body and its purpose is the same now as it was when it was set up 63 years ago. It’s really to drive sector growth. 

When the organization was set up in 1959 by Jacques Dauphin who was one of the pioneers of French outdoor media alongside JCDecaux, it was originally called FEPE which is short in French for  Federation European Publicite Exterieur, and in later years, it expanded outside that footprint and became a truly global organization. So in 2018, we decided to rebrand as the World Out of Home Organization, which we launched the following year at our Dubai Congress, which happened just before the pandemic, and so we’re now the World Out of Home Organization, but we are 63 years old. 

Yeah, I have known a few people who would make reference to FEPE all the time, like Sheldon Silverman when I was in meetings with him, and I didn’t know what he was going on about, but when the name was changed, I was like, “Oh, now I get it!” It’s a more universal name.

Tom Goddard: Yeah. It’s very plain and it says what it does. 

With regards to your background, are you a media owner guy or an agency guy or something else?

Tom Goddard: Yeah, I’m a media owner guy. I come from the media owner side and I’ve had a long career on the media owner side, all the way from a small company started in Ireland to running the International division of CBS Outdoors, as it was then called. More recently I was the chairman of Ocean Outdoor in the UK, which is one of the leading digital out-of-home companies in the premium sector.

Are you still active, or are you still working? 

Tom Goddard: Yeah, I’m still pretty active. I just stepped down from Ocean, just about a year and a half ago, but but I have also got a business called, Out of Home Capital, which I’ve set up with with eight other very experienced out-of-home professionals, and it’s a global advisory business that helps all sectors of the out-of-home ecosystem to achieve their strategic plans. So I’m busy with that alongside my active work in the World Out of Home Organization. 

Out of Home Capital, is that also a funding entity or purely advisory?

Tom Goddard: It’s mainly advisory, but we do have access to capital sources, and we do advise, for example, out-of-home media owners who are perhaps getting ready for a sale or getting ready for an IPO, we do advise them on how to go about preparing for that and also we have sources that we can recommend in terms of of capital investment.

Is that a going concern that keeps you busy or is it one of those things that’s a little little bit of peaks and valleys, where a project comes up and you’re all busy and then there’s not much going on and you can relax and then something else comes up.?

Tom Goddard: We set it up a couple of years ago and within two weeks we had our first project, which was a New York Bank making an investment, needing a due diligence report, and since then we’ve been steadily busy, including working for a large private equity operator who were examining the potential sale of Clear Channel’s European assets, and we have three European city projects at the moment where we’re advising European cities on their out-of-home strategy and on their smart city strategy. 

So it’s really getting traction now, David, and when we set it up, we wondered how it would go, but everybody seems to tell us that there was a gap in the market, there was a need for this global advisory business and that seems to be the case. 

I did a lot of consulting for a bunch of years now. Now, I’m just focused on Sixteen:Nine, but I would get emails and phone calls from people asking about whether I could do advisory on digital out-of-home and I would just flat out tell them that there are other people out there who know a hell of a lot more about that particular side of the business than I do, and I would point them that way, because it’s just not my thing. 

And we’ll talk about it later, but I’m eternally confused by the whole programmatic business. I understand it at a macro level, but boy, it’s complicated. 

Tom Goddard: Absolutely, but if you get any more referrals, just send them my way.

But interestingly there are not a lot of advisory units out there who really have the depth of experience needed. For example, we’re just in the process of advising a large Asian media player who wants to get a tall hold in Times Square in New York, so you can get things like that along with major retailers who are looking to maximize their digital assets in their supermall.

So there aren’t many companies that have the ability to assess the audience value and also know about the aesthetics and the environment. 

So how global is the World Out of Home Organization at this point, are you covering every continent and how many members do you have?

Tom Goddard: Yeah, it’s really taken off in the last few years, particularly since we rebranded, David, it’s amazing what that has done, but we now have over 150 members worldwide. That’s mainly large out-of-home media owners like Lamar, OUTFRONT in the US, and then JCDecaux in Europe, Out of Home media in Australia, Phoenix Metropolitan in China, and we also have lots of national out-of-home trade bodies, like the OAAA in the US and FAW in Germany, Outsmart in the UK and the Outdoor Trade Association in Japan. 

The other good thing about our organization is we also admit service providers in the out-of-home sector like Daktronics and BroadSign in the US are members and most of the ad tech providers like View and Hivestack and Vista are members, and of course all the major BD buying agencies as well, Kinetic Talent and Rapport. So we totally embraced the entire 37 billion out-of-home ecosystem. 

So if you want to be a member or you’re considering being a member, it’s not really the case where you go, do I join World Out of Home, or do OAAA or whatever, you can be a member of all of them, and it’s not a conflict, and you’re not choosing sides? 

Tom Goddard: No, in fact the World Out of Home Organization is an international global body whereas the trade associations like Outsmart in the UK and the OAAA in the US are mainly national associations, and what we do is we connect with them and help to amplify the work they’re doing and also help them to develop standards and best practices. So it’s an entirely complimentary thing that you would join. 

And also you would join it to be a part of a sort of a sharing and learning platform and to get access to our extensive database and active networking forum, and of course you get favorable discount rates to all our events. Somebody said to me recently that our annual Congress is really now a must attend event. 

Is that the big thing, the resources and the conferences and so on? Are those kinds of the main motivators for joining? 

Tom Goddard: They used to be, David. We used to very heavily rely on our annual Congress which is highly attended by the senior people in out-of-home. But we are now doing our annual event, we had one recently in Toronto and next year’s is in Lisbon in June, but we’re doing two fairly major regional events. We’ve got one coming up actually in October in Southeast Asia for APAC and that’s based in Kuala Lumpur, and we’ve got one coming up in February in Dubai covering the MENA region. 

So the events are a big attraction, but there’s a lot more to the organization now, including monthly global Zoom calls with members, webinars and lots of other stuff that’s going on throughout the year.  

Is it a case where you have media companies, particularly those who cover multiple companies competing in many respects, but this is a forum where they can collaborate and share ideas and the competition goes away for at least a little bit? 

Tom Goddard: That’s a very astute question, David, and that’s the tightrope all trade associations walk and what we do is we try to focus as hard as possible on sector growth and all the things that contribute to sector growth. And what you get is fierce competition locally at national level, between out-of-home media operators, both at the media owner and the media agency level. But there are lots of areas where it makes sense to collaborate and cooperate at association level to drive the sector because there is hard evidence now that a 1% sector growth is five times more valuable to your bottom line than a 1% growth within the silo.

So when you talk about the sector, are you talking at a macro level about out-of-home or digital out-of-home? 

Tom Goddard: I’m talking about out-of-home at a macro level, and don’t forget that, 63% of global revenues still come through the classic out-of-home channel or static, as I think you call it in the US, but that is obviously tipping year by year in favor of digital.

Some markets are at 80% digital and other markets are a lot less than that. I never foresee a situation where the market will be all digital. But I think the majority will be digital, but there will still be great work to be done with classic billboards, doing directional work for the likes of McDonald’s and other big retail operators. 

Yeah, there’s any number of instances where I’ve seen digital in play and thought that wasn’t necessary, it was almost like they did it because it’s digital, that makes it shinier and newer and more attractive and a poster, a printed stock would’ve been just fine. 

Tom Goddard: Yeah. I guess because of the capital investment required, out-of-home media owners are pretty cany when it comes to the ones that need to be digitized. It’s usually a very high value site. Sean Reilly at Lamar has a statistic that shows something like 4% of his inventory produced 27% of his revenues. Forgive me if I haven’t got the numbers right, but we are moving into an era now where less is more. So I think you’ll see a rationalization of out-of-home inventory around the world, but it will be higher value and more digital.

Yeah, I’m curious if your organization has a role in mentoring a lot of the startups that come along? These are the companies that want to put screens on everything, I just wrote last week about a company in London that’s putting them on delivery scooters, and I tend to roll my eyes on a lot of these new kinds of efforts, but I thought that one was actually pretty spot on given the way London works and everything else, but there are so many dreamers out there that think they can put a screen anywhere and it’s the road to riches route for them. 

Tom Goddard: Yeah, as we would say in Ireland, David, “God bless them!”

We would say, “Fill your boots!”

Tom Goddard: The simple fact is you put multiple screens where there is a huge audience, and on the back of delivery bikers is not exactly the place to get a return on that investment. But I think that there’s always gonna be left field entrepreneurs coming into the industry. 

Where you see the big changes is with the high value sites around the world, and of course, lots of advertisers are cleverly using trophies or marquee digital sites on their social media as well. Most people who buy space in Times Square or Piccadilly Circus in London get wonderfully extended coverage and amplification on social media. So I think, in terms of dynamic content, in terms of the fact that involving memory and encoding digital motion really scores very high in those areas. 

So is that part of the reason why you’re seeing like lights, particularly in Asia, you’re seeing a lot of these, anamorphic collusion types of creative that they are hoping will also get picked in social media and so on, so it’s extending the reach?

Tom Goddard: Absolutely, David, this is a really very exciting new innovation and Ocean calls it deep screen, and there are various sorts of versions of it.

What we’re finding, which is very exciting in our sector is that there’s two levels of creativity, the traditional great ideas that the great creatives come up with as well, and then there’s the great creative technical applications, and what you’ve just described, that is a great example of the attention getting the ability of these deep screen ads and they just go viral on social media. 

Yeah, I’ve found that there’s only been a few campaigns that have somehow rather threaded the needle between really interesting visuals but actually an effective ad. There have been ones where I’m trying to figure out okay, who is even the brand for this, but once in a while you see the ones where they’ve managed to achieve both.

Tom Goddard: Yeah, the people who invest in these types of locations also use them as part of their annual reports in their own collateral material, they use them in their websites. They get tremendous mileage out of them. 

Most of the great creative directors of our times always say, if you can get it right  on a poster, on an outdoor ad, you get it right on all media, that’s as true today as it ever was. 

Because it’s short and sweet and to the point, right?

Tom Goddard: Yeah, you’ve gotta get the message across swiftly and you’ve gotta be entertaining. 

Yeah, I try to emphasize in my past life with consulting clients, that this is not a storytelling medium, it’s a glance medium. You’ve gotta get your message across really quickly and somehow resonate with them. 

Tom Goddard: Yeah, you’re dead right. 

One of the challenges through the years, particularly in the early years of digital out-of-home was getting acceptance from media planners and buyers, that they would understand the medium, that the level of measurement was good enough to mirror what was happening online and elsewhere, and it wasn’t just guesswork about audiences. Is that a hurdle that’s now being cleared? 

Tom Goddard: Yeah, very much, and of course the research is very robust now, in terms of the work that digital out-of-home does. 

At a broader level, David, we are now in a global media market that’s all about screens, and of all the legacy media, out-of-home has converged best with the digital era, and is regarded really as text friends, so I think we now are an integral part of the digital screen world and there’s a terrific amount of research to back that up.

We recently spent a year updating and distributing the audience measurement guidelines, because it didn’t include digital in the previous version, and it now fully includes the digital part of our medium, so we’re well covered there. 

Is it possible to have global standards or is there just too many differences region to region or even country by country?

Tom Goddard: No, it absolutely is possible to have global standards, and that document, which is a 100+ page document put together by Neil Eddleston and Gideon Adey, two of the accepted global gurus on audience measurement, that has received tremendous endorsement from organizations who are all consulted in the process. 

You can have a model that fits most markets that is adjustable for the physical state of the local market and the level of maturity in that market. But yes, the important thing is to try and have an accepted level of research across all the markets so that the CMOs are talking the same language when they’re buying out-of-home.

I know you’re not a hardcore technology guy, but I have to ask about LED just from the lens of LED has opened up the opportunity to get beyond standardized billboard shapes and standardized kinds of locations, so you’re now seeing the sides of entire buildings, including the Burj in Dubai being lined with LE  lighting that at a great distance can look like an ad.

Are we heading to a time where it’s going to be like a few of the movies out there, like Children of Men or Blade Runner, where there are billboards on the sides of buildings and blimps and everything else? 

Tom Goddard: I think we’re there now, David, certainly in China. If you go to Shanghai, it will blow your mind, and what’s great is that there was a time when out-of-home media owners didn’t have the greatest relationship with municipalities in cities, but cities now and out-of-home media owners are working collaboratively to integrate great digital treatments in the fabric of the cities and to connect with the smart city technology.

I think most mayors in the world now would regard large format, digital media and small format, on street furniture units to make a statement that this is a progressive city, this is a city that’s moving fast in the digital age, so I think we’re there. I think you can do nonstandard formats, particularly on super premium, as we see, and even now, we see some incredible treatments, with groups of drones being brought in for special occasions, so digital out-of-home is really, as I said, of all the legacy media, it has embraced technology best, and I think is really well equipped. Because when we started this organization, when our forebears started this organization, it was for the same reason which was to drive sector growth. But then, the big tech guys came in with television and later color television and now out-of-home is competing against the tech giants that are preeminent in digital marketing and in digital media. 

So we have to move along with that, and that’s what we’re doing, and this is why digital out-of-home is the second fastest growth medium in all of media . 

Is it part of your organization’s charge to demystify or simplify some of the enabling technology, because I’m somebody who’s been involved in the industry at various levels for more than 20 years and I struggle mightily to understand everything going on with programmatic, and if I’m having trouble, I suspect a lot of other people are. 

Tom Goddard: Yeah, you’re dead right. I’ve been banging on about this at various conferences. I think what we have is that programmatic is really simply computer-to-computer trading between SSPs (supply side platforms) and DSPs (demand side platforms) and it’s gotten a bit complicated in out-of-home because we’ve added multiple layers on top of that, such as data stacks, real-time bidding capability, dynamic content, etc, and all these additions are meant to enhance the process and make it even more targeted and precise, but you’re right, they also increase the complexity as well. 

We often have programmatic panels at our conferences and I appeal to the panelists to speak English and stop talking in all their tech language and we are getting better, but I would have to admit, David, I think it’s unnecessarily complicated, or we make it unnecessary complicated, and certainly that’s something we need to work on.

Yeah, I wonder if some of it simply has to do with all the different vendors, almost inventing terms so that they can differentiate themselves from a bunch of other companies that are doing roughly the same thing? 

Tom Goddard: Yes,. I think this gets back to my overriding point: our real competitors are not the other outdoor companies, our real competitor is at sector-level. So the more standards we have, the less complicated it is for media planners and CMOs to look at the medium and buy the medium, the faster the sector will grow. 

You and I are absolutely aligned on that, and it’s something that we work on constantly. 

In terms of the overall organization, if you had to identify what your main sort of challenge or thing that you wanna accomplish in the next couple of years, what would that be?

Tom Goddard: Yeah, fortunately, David, in out-of-home, there are way more opportunities than challenges at the moment, but the ones that are in my mind that need more attention are audience measurement and sustainability.

We still have huge deserts, huge markets, and regions around the world that either lack or have suboptimal audience measurement systems, such as China, India, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and again, getting back to my point that if we can all get up to speed in terms of industry standard and languages, you know, I was down at the WFA, the world Federation of Advertisers Congress in Athens a couple of months ago, and listening to the brilliant CMOs talking on the platform there, and they look at things globally and they move around a lot, so it’s very important for us to get all those markets that don’t have audience measured, and we’re introducing ourselves an initiative following our 100+ page guideline book called “Measure the World” to encourage those markets, to put the investment in through their national associations.

And then of course, the second thing is sustainability, which is a big challenge for every company and every citizen. 

Yes, and I guess the other one that is steadily coming up is security and network security and locking down your billboards and your digital posters. 

Tom Goddard: How do you mean? 

In terms of not getting hacked!

Tom Goddard: To be honest with you, David, it’s a very rare occurrence, but it does get a lot of publicity when it happens and it’s usually from a novelty point of view. I saw something a couple of days ago that was rather amusing, but it’s very rare and our security levels are very high and that’s why it’s very rare. So I don’t see that as an issue. 

Yeah, I think the mainstream media companies certainly understand it. It’s the smaller kind of entrepreneurial operators who are trying to cut corners and then they discover, “oh, we shouldn’t have cut that corner.” 

Tom Goddard: That’s right. 

So if I’m an organization that is listening to this and thinking, I wanna know more, I perhaps want to join the World Out of Home Organization. How do they find you? 

Tom Goddard: As I said, the World Out of Home Organization is a not-for-profit organization. Our board of directors, which is like a who’s who from the out-of-home media owners association, all give their time voluntarily to the organization. Its only function is to improve and promote out-of-home globally, and to drive sector growth. 

The membership fees are pretty nominal and the value that you get from the association makes it a no brainer. So you just log on to our website and there’s a place there where you fill out the application form and join, and we are enjoying a very steady growth of new members at the moment. But it’s not just about getting membership fees to cover the basic cost of running the organization, it’s about learning and sharing, and everybody, as I said in Toronto, at the Congress, whether you are big or small and you have a story to tell, we do a weekly newsletter and everybody has a chance to tell their story in that.

So from my point of view, but of course I would say this anyway, David, it’s a no brainer to join the World Out of Home Organization. You are doing only good. 

It’s, correct? 

Tom Goddard: Correct! 

All right, that was terrific. Thank you for spending some time with me.

Tom Goddard: It was a great pleasure and I hope this nice weather continues, and let’s chat again sometime to see how much progress we’ve made.


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