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Al Barq

Andrew Wood leads the Abu Dhabi Media Digital Out of Home (AD Media DooH), which operates under the media brand Al Barq Digital. (Tobias Franke)

Andrew spent his early years in the computer industry, first in the USA, then in London with the ORACLE Corporation, before holding a number of leadership positions, including roles at Accenture and Ernst and Young. He was first exposed to the world of digital signage in 2001 when he founded a media agency in London. After growing and selling the business in 2006 to a Private Equity Company that created the ENQII Digital Software Business, Andrew started looking for his next challenge and whilst visiting the Middle East he saw what a great opportunity existed for a DooH business in the region. Andrew bought himself a one-way ticket to Dubai, met some likeminded people at Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) who were keen to invest in this area and the rest is history as they say. Al Barq Digital’s roll-out in shopping malls around the UAE and wider Middle East and North Africa region really boils down to one key factor – audience. Very few Digital Out Of Home advertising environments deliver the sorts of audience characteristics and dynamics that malls offer: Millions of consumers; long average dwell times; and proximity to MENA consumers just as they’re shopping. Al Barq is installing a network of two-sided Digital Media Units in the busiest foot traffic areas of malls. Each has back-to-back 65-inch portrait mode HD video screens running advertising and marketing messages, flanked by smaller interactive touch screens used as mall directories and wayfinding tools. Complementary technologies, such as mobile, WiFi, Bluetooth and print/digital vouchers, turn these DMUs into information and service hubs in malls across the region. Al Barq’s first site is in Dubai, and three more malls are now under agreement. The network is ahead of plan for 300 targeted screens operating by the end of Q1 2011. Launching in September at Dubai Festival City (DFC) gave the firm a tremendous start. DFC, named the International Shopping Centre of the Year in 2008, has 600 shops, 2.8 million sq. ft. of space and direct ties to several hotel and office properties. There are 64 screens deployed in key locations, making them impossible to miss. People walking the concourse areas almost always have at least one screen in view. That deliberate design adds tremendous frequency to the great reach already on offer. The ad loop is just 80 seconds, and with people spending nearly three hours (on average) in the mall, each of those spots has the potential to be seen as many as 50 times in one trip. Compare that to many DooH networks that have to work at ensuring all their sold ads are seen even once, because of much shorter dwell times. Advertising is being sold by in-house, and content is also created internally, leveraging the support and skills that come with Al Barq being part of a much larger media entity. Al Barq Digital is a regional brand owned and operated by Abu Dhabi Media Digital Out of Home (AD Media DooH), a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) – a leading media organization in the Middle East, with businesses in free and pay television, radio, publishing, digital media, games, feature films, music, outside broadcast/production, and printing. The MENA region is undeveloped in the DooH sector, and therefore rife with opportunity to build a digital advertising business that connects brands and services with consumers. AD Media DooH’s robust financial backing has allowed the company to grow at a rapid pace, find ideal technology partners, invest in its own Intellectual Property and win the trust of venue partners. Among AD Media DooH’s big goals for 2011 is moving the entire DooH sector in this region forward by setting the foundations for agreed-to standards and metrics, and helping establish a regulatory body and advocacy to gain recognition, credibility and acceptance among the groups that control media spend. The company is commissioning a research project to better understand the DooH sector in the region. The end product will be a DooH outlook report, similar to what’s being produced in Europe and in North America.