Hiring a digital executive for an out-of-home, location-based video company is not as counter intuitive as it may seem. Ian Mirmelstein, Adspace Networks' new Senior Vice President, Digital Engagement, is a digital native who began his career in the late 1990s, working for companies like Microsoft, AT&T and The New Republic. In this new role, he's leading the transformation of Adspace into a digital and programmatic vehicle. "Adspace sits in an ecosystem of media owners with digital screens that are out in the physical world," he says. "Our niche is inside of America's top shopping destinations. Companies like Captivate own elevators. Zoom owns health clubs. We own the video story inside of malls across the U.S."
Charlene Weisler: Tell me about your current job and what you're working on.
Ian Mirmelstein: My job is to lead the transformation of the company from what has been an out-of-home play on the buy side to a digital opportunity with all the addressability, measurement and performance attributes that the category demands. Our screens are in front of audiences that are in "decision making moments" in their lives. My job is to help craft the narrative for Adspace that speaks to the mindset of our audience. It is also to set up, from a technology perspective, platforms and partners that can help us make our offering smarter. Today a brand can come to us and say, 'I want to buy this audience' and we can do so in a way that feels like a digital buy. At the end of the day, we are audience-targeted :15 and :30 second digital video and that is an enormously transacting category.
Weisler: What data are you collecting and how are you using it? Do you use standard metrics and if so, what are they?
Mirmelstein: Through several partnerships we are in the process of collecting data but it is very early for us. It is a priority for us as we enter 2018. Right now, location and crowd-sourced data are the most important for us as we sell our audiences. This helps us to see where our consumers have been throughout their daily journey and what type of consumers are in front of our screen at given times. This way we can say to an advertiser that we can help them reach, for example, 'Women 18-35, with a certain household income, who went to a car dealership in the last two weeks and who drop their kids off at school daily.' Location tells us so much about our audiences that we can use to inform our targeting recommendations.
Weisler: How do you plan to operate cross platform?
Mirmelstein: We are unique in that our audiences are open-minded and receptive to advertising. In many cases, they're either steps away from purchasing or, at the very least, they're in the mindset of where they are going to spend their money. Brands who use our screens in these critical moments are taking advantage of a unique opportunity for that consumer to be influenced. Advertising on our screens is similar to re-targeting or intender cookie pools online. In the digital world, every advertiser is competing for the consumer who has been to their website or shown a behavior that indicates purchase intent, because that visitor is more likely to purchase. So, too, are visitors to a mall indicating their purchasing intent. It is not an exact proxy but for our category it is a powerful place to own. We're going to be developing products and our platform to leverage this differentiator as we evolve.
Weisler: What are the biggest challenges in out-of-home?
Mirmelstein: The status quo is our biggest challenge. You've got an out-of-home buy side that is used to doing things the way they've always done it. You've got folks like me who are coming in and saying that there is another way to approach this ecosystem and it's through addressability, mobile amplification and attribution. Infusing the category with these digital attributes will elevate and strengthen OOH, allowing it to command a greater overall percentage of media spending. In the end, we all want what's best for our clients and we want to make our category smarter and easier to buy.
Weisler: Please give me some predictions for how you think the media landscape will look in the next three to five years.
Mirmelstein: In the next five years, you'll see a continued acceleration of the digitization of media and a shift towards a video agnostic approach for reaching audiences. I also believe there will be a greater premium on experiences. For example, I am excited about the ability of brands to activate AR and VR inside of our environment. From an engagement perspective, there are some really cool opportunities to help brands deepen their connections with consumers, steps from the point of sale.
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