“Out of Home can already be used as a performance marketing channel”: Mo Moubayed, Veridooh

With digital screens going programmatic and outdoor mobile searches driving higher conversions, DOOH is no longer just a brand building tool. But how do you verify OOH panels and billboards in the real world? That was the multi-million dollar question on which adtech firm Veridooh was formed …

Successful start-ups are often forged within a make-or-break ‘Eureka’ moment. For Mo Moubayed and Jeremy Yang, that moment arrived in the elevator of a leading agency’s office after being presented with a multimillion dollar problem they knew they could solve –  but they had to pivot their entire business model to accomplish it. 

Formed back in 2019, Veridooh mixes the traditional branding power of out-of-home (OOH) ads with digital accountability. Its patented SmartCreative technology lets media agencies and brands know how their campaign - whether digital, programmatic, or static - is being delivered by providing them with more than 400 metrics covering play count, exposure time, creative execution and more, in one, easy-to-use dashboard.

But that wasn’t the initial plan.

Speaking to PMW, Mo Moubayed, co-CEO and co-founder of Veridooh, says: “We actually set out to launch our own digital out-of-home network. Our plan was to put digital signs on top of vehicles in Australia. That was a really interesting couple of years where we had to lobby the government to change laws that allow digital signs on top vehicles – which we successfully did in the end.

“As any good entrepreneur would do, we had everything in place, and we thought to ourselves, ‘OK - let's sell it. Let's put these signs on top of vehicles to see if there is actually any demand for this’. However, we went around from agency to agency to pitch the idea and we kept getting the question; ‘how do I know if my ad is displayed as planned?’”

It was this organic demand for independent verification that the pair kept coming up against as they pitched their DOOH network around to local agencies. “We heard the question enough times that it got us thinking about it. It really jumped out at us when we pitched to one of the nation’s leading media agencies. Once again after we pitched this space, they asked us, “how do we know if our ad played? If you can prove that our ad played, we will buy the space”.

“That was the challenge put forward to us and we went away to solve that challenge for ourselves. We came back with the proof of concept and returned to pitch it with our DOOH network.”

The elevator pitch … and an elevator realisation 

It was at that point that Moubayed and Yang also started getting interest from one of the biggest brands in the world – along with a big proposition.  

“We were in the office with the brand’s head of media at the time, who said: ‘We spend millions of dollars in out-of-home advertising. Could you track and verify all that for me instead?’ It was a really clear moment for us. Leaving the meeting and coming down that lift with my co-founder; it was obvious that this was something that we needed to work on.”

Suddenly, the pair knew they had to turn their attention to solving the challenge of OOH verification.  

“Coming down that lift, we realised a couple things. Number one: OOH verification was a challenge for clients. We’d heard it from all the agencies we spoke to. Number two; we had a client challenging us and saying, if you could do it, we will pay for it. So we had a founding client and we realised it was a challenge for the whole industry, it wasn't just us, and we were uniquely placed to fulfil those goals.”

We decided to focus solely on tracking and verifying OOH advertising, which is now Veridooh.”

A locked away audience provides time for research and development

So the pair had to put their plans to launch a DOOH network aside and instead spent months working closely with the client to build the metrics and analysis in their dashboard. These insights are then presented on the Veridooh dashboard for agencies and brands to easily analyse and optimise their campaigns.

All this happened in early 2019 before the pandemic turned the world - and marketing - on its head. 

“We were in the market in 2020, then by April 60% of OOH revenue gets wiped. As a startup, to see that happen is just a whole other journey, having to go through that challenge within one year of launching.”

But despite lockdown decimating the OOH market as people stayed indoors, this didn't deter the pair. In fact, the ‘pause’ came at the right time for the company to refocus and grow its solution before demand kicked back up. 

“The pandemic was a stress test for us, and we were growing much faster than we expected. Even though advertising spend had slowed, brands such as FMCGs, telcos, and banks were still spending and many wanted to independently verify their campaigns with us.

“We were also growing as a team. There were a lot of really talented people in the market because of COVID which meant we could lock in great talent early on. 

As ex-lawyers, Moubayed and Yang knew that getting the patent software right was crucial. SmartCreative’s 100% independent verification was a first in the industry. Previously, advertisers had to rely on spot checks of their campaign or data supplied from media owners to know whether their OOH campaigns were being delivered as planned. Veridooh meant advertisers could now have oversight of the complete duration of their campaigns with data that was completely independent of  media owners. This means, brands and marketers have greater transparency and trust in OOH, which encourages them to spend more in the sector. 

The standardisation that Veridooh provides also means advertisers have a uniform metric to analyse and understand their campaigns for the first time, which helps optimise campaign planning.

“We're very proud of the patent,” Moubayed beams. “We identified something to be patented very early on in our journey, and it helps that me and Jeremy are ex-lawyers!” 

The next big performance channel?

Veridooh is at the forefront of a digital revolution happening in the OOH space. Last year, Google announced that it was making DOOH ads available to all users of its advertising marketplace Display & Video 360 (DV360). Now marketers can buy ads on digital screens in stadiums, airports, bus stops, shopping centres, elevators, taxis and more through Google’s one-stop-shop DV360 marketplace. 

So how are the worlds of OOH and performance marketing becoming more entwined and how is verification technology helping?

“For out-of-home and performance marketing to be intertwined, out-of-home needs data.  That's really what drives performance marketing. We believe Veridooh is the first step of that. It’s all about creating certainty that your campaign is being delivered the way that you booked it. And from that certainty, you get a platform for you to overlay a whole bunch of other data that leads to measuring the performance of that ad. We're seeing more and more of that.”

The measurement of outdoor campaigns has come a long way from the brand uplift and market research surveys of the past. Recent research from two of the biggest media owners in the space - Clear Channel and JC Decaux – found that OOH mobile searches are 38% more successful in encouraging consumers to make a purchase than ones made at home. Additionally, when an OOH advertising campaign features a location call out, 62% of people feel more inclined to search for a product or service.

All this means greater accountability for OOH ads - with new touch points being added to the measurement mix all the time. 

“If I had to look at a timeline for OOH, first of all we were static and we didn't have a lot of data around,” Moubayed reminisces. “As the industry became digital, we understood we can now look at other sources of data, one of those being verification. We're also seeing amazing data come through from mobile which allows us to understand impressions and audience a lot better. 

“The third stage is around attribution. So understanding what happened next. Did someone walk into the store? Did someone buy something? All that data is becoming more and more readily available. OOH can already be used as a performance marketing channel and it's only going to grow as a proportion over branding as that data becomes better. The media owners are doing a great job around this development.”"

But Moubayed is adamant that creativity will remain at the heart of outdoor ads, now complemented by extra layers of measurability. 

“I don't think OOH will ever stop becoming a brand building tool,” he adds. “But it might be this really amazing platform that gets the best of both worlds from brand building and performance marketing, depending on how you want to plan your campaign, and I think that's really exciting. We also have DSPs such as the Trade Desk and Yahoo already letting advertisers buy home inventory through them as well. That merger between DOOH and performance is definitely getting a lot stronger."

So what does this pairing of branding and performance look like in practice? Working with over 160 brands, including Amazon, Mo highlights Veridooh’s recent work with a major fast food chain. “I think that was a really cool one. McDonald’s Monopoly in Australia where the outdoor creative was being dynamically optimised in real-time.”

“As the McDonald’s campaign shows, I think the future for digital out of home is really exciting. If we look at the number of panels out there, the transition rates from static to digital panels shows that the industry is growing really, really quickly! Brands need to start thinking that if they can run a type of ad on a computer or a phone, they can also do the same executions on a digital out of home screen. Like with the McDonald’s example, the opportunities for dynamic creative optimization – creatives being optimised in real time based on real world events – is really exciting.”

Retail Media plus DOOH: a match made in heaven? 

Looking ahead, what does the future hold for DOOH, and should brands and agencies be thinking of out of home as a performance channel as much as a branding one, when planning their investments? Moubayed points to potential synergy with another emerging performance platform - retail media - as a way forward for DOOH. 

“I think out of home screens will be more intertwined into new environments. So it's no longer just going to be going to be in the train station or on the side of your street. I think they're going to be integrated into a lot of retail.”

As Veridooh continues its growth across European markets, Moubayed considers how even the sale of a humble carrot in a supermarket could have more accurate attribution attached to it, via the advancement of DOOH.  

“Tesco in the UK have started trialling screens all around the shop to the point where it even reminded me a little of an online store,” Moubayed adds. “It has shelves and then two digital screens on each side, along with a digital screen on the top. It's a really high point of sale, but with the additional power of interactive screens that can be optimised with the right message for the right time.”

“As a performance marketing channel, if you have these screens in environments such as Tesco, then attribution to sales becomes a lot easier,” Mo concludes. “You've got this data owned by Tesco that says: ‘actually there was an increase of 25% sales in carrots because we had those carrot ads in store’. And I think that moves us a lot closer to performance marketing.”

Whether it's on big or small screens - the future of DOOH looks bright.  

Mo Moubayed is Co-Founder and Co-CEO at Veridooh.