Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Richard Simkins, Global Head of Strategy & Operations, OOH, dentsu

Richard Simkins is Global Head of Strategy & Operations, OOH at dentsu. With over twenty years’ industry experience, he has previously held positions at companies including Global, Talon and Posterscope. We asked who his digital hero is.

Who is your digital hero?

James Davies, founder of Crossover Comms, and former Director of Posterscope and GroundTruth.

What have they done to win hero status in your eyes?

I’ve been fortunate to work with James many times over the last 20 years.  I first met James when I was trying sell and grow the capabilities of the first digital OOH network on the London Underground and he ran Posterscope’s Innovations and Special Projects division, Hyperspace, which he founded. I was inspired by his enthusiasm for all things digital and his vision of what this nascent medium of Digital Out of Home (DOOH) could become, which resulted in us collaborating on a number of exciting projects. 

When the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance to work for him at Hyperspace, and in doing so he taught me the value of creative ambition, diligence, and humility.  He demonstrated to me that it was possible to be the smartest, most respected, and nicest person in the room without compromising who you are (often whilst he was wearing Nike Kicks and listening to old school hip hop). 

Since then, we have collaborated on multiple projects during his time at GroundTruth, after which he founded Crossover Comms, a digital agency specialising in location-centric marketing.   A hero of the DOOH community, and a personal hero in many people’s eyes too.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

James has always believed that digital platforms could and should converge – for instance he productised an offering of in real life (IRL) & in-game DOOH billboards, championed the potential for Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO) in DOOH and led the development and growth of Liveposter within the dentsu business.  He pushed us to test programmatic approaches in DOOH before the first DSP (demand side platform) had a sniff of the medium, and in his recent career he has led the blending of location-based data with location-based media – fusing social, mobile, OOH and more for his clients. 

What are the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

DOOH is a fantastic medium for advertisers. Public, unmissable, dynamic, creative with huge reach which can do both awesome brand-building and short-term performance.  However, by its nature it is very, arguably too, diverse in terms of formats – portrait/landscape, moving/static, short-form/long-form, video/image, aspect ratios, shapes etc. 

This diversity offers both huge opportunity for brands but also leads to complexity with planning and activating.  The last few years has seen some welcomed consistency of formats in the UK but other countries are witnessing even more variations being added into the mix.  The good news is that there are already solutions in place to help this, with several programmatic, creative and verification platforms that OOH specialists use which can simplify and automate campaign delivery. So, for me I can’t help but feel the diversity in hardware and software DOOH media owners deploy is potentially handbraking the growth of the medium and in the eyes of advertisers is something the industry needs to try to tackle.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

Well, given the challenges many are facing at the moment I would struggle to define my achievements as heroic but there are a few projects I look back on with pride.  My involvement in developing, selling, and delivering some of the first DOOH campaigns and then Liveposter campaigns – DCO for DOOH – were both challenging and rewarding and played a minor role in shaping this sector. 

More recently whilst at Global, I led the ideation and execution of Vodafone’s “Painting the Town Red”, which saw Vodafone’s wrapped Routemaster buses programmatically triggering a digital Roadblock on individual DOOH screens when they were within 200 metres.   

There are a few other fairly epic campaigns I have had a hand in too, such as “MINI World Record”, “Pepsi Max Unbelievable Bus Shelter” and “Oreo Eclipse”, all of which pushed the boundaries of what we thought DOOH could pull off.