Kinetic invests in startups to 'shape the future' of out-of-home

Lightvert - one of the startups signed up to KineticX currently - specialises in new projection technology

Out of home is in the midst of a digital transformation, and WPP-owned out-of-home agency Kinetic is trying to stay ahead of the curve by investing in startups to help influence the future of data-driven OOH.

The agency has launched a startup incubator, KineticX, that will provide around six startups specialising in contextual marketing and digital screen technology access to its resources in exchange for exclusivity of those new technologies.

The agency will not commit money to the startups and will not ask for equity, instead it sees its relationship with the startups as partnerships. It hopes to help generate revenue for early-stage businesses in order to “shape the future of the industry”, said Roshan Singh, who is heading up the KineticX division.

“We want to make sure in five years time we can place the influence we have had,” he added.

According to Singh, this year will see the proliferation of digital screens to OOH, while static screens fade away. With that will come a “much more data-focused and data-led approach” to OOH, he said, paving the way for new technology like programmatic, artificial intelligence, geolocation, projections and holograms and the internet of things to enter the oldest advertising medium.

Clear Channel, OOH media owner, debuted its first OOH programmatic buying tool last month as it celebrated 60% of its revenue coming from digital screens. Last year the OOH giant abandoned 800 roadside billboards in the UK.

“There has never been a more exciting time to be involved with out of home. There is very little we can't do with OOH. For us it feels like this is a good time to explore what the future of this industry will be," he said.

Launch partners include Lightvert, a hyper-scale digital display provider, Meshh, a hyper-local and contextualised mobile specialist and Tamoco, which aims to build the world’s largest proximity network to connect mobile audiences to the Internet of Things.

Since OOH pivots around human interaction with the physical space, Singh sees opportunity in location-based augmented reality like Pokemon Go, and believes Snapchat will play a big part in this.

“On Snapchat we see people interacting with brands in way they don’t on other platforms. If you put a Snapcode on a poster that person can then interact through Snapchat and get taken straight to that branded content. That branded content could be anything," he said.

The introduction of Snapcodes, a QR code which can be placed on any physical, digital or TV advertising and when scanned take the user directly to a brand's page on Snapchat, has "helped the service transition from a messaging app to an ecommerce platform," Singh added.

"The amount of work they have done to turn what they have into a brand ecosystem is exciting, the opportunities that opens up is huge, whether that be Snapcodes, geotargeted lenses and filters.

“If we are talking about engaging young people, who are the most likely to engage with brands on mobile OOH, Snapchat seems like the easiest platform to do it on,” he added.

The OOH agency will provide the startups with guidance and support "to help bring their product to market in line with the expectations of clients", as well as sales and marketing support and access to Kinetic’s client base.

"We want to develop genuine revenue generating opportunities for our partners while allowing them the opportunity to be laser focused on developing their products," Singh opines.

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Jessica Goodfellow

The Drum's media reporter covering everything from publishing, TV, social media, radio and technology.

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