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Outdoor Digital Advertising and How It Applies to the Metaverse and Real Estate

The outdoor advertising industry is undergoing a significant change. With the rise of digital ads, advertisers have the opportunity to completely reimagine their audience experiences and engage them in new ways.


Outdoor digital advertising is also impacting the virtual world. This episode discusses how outdoor digital advertising is changing and how it applies to the metaverse and real estate.


Darabase is the AR Outdoor Media Company, a turnkey platform and solution for brands, advertisers, and retailers wanting to run immersive Augmented Reality Outdoor Media layered on the real world.


They augment existing outdoor media screens and billboards, deliver permission-based AR campaigns in iconic locations and provide scale geographic coverage through our "Run of World" AR inventory network. They help retailers use AR to drive footfall and sales and enable property companies to monetize their estate.


Know more about Darabase:


Outdoor Digital Advertising And How It Applies To The Metaverse And Real Estate

A lot of our audience is very familiar with the traditional way of making money in real estate. By that, I mean, if you have residential buildings, you're providing a roof over someone's head and a safe environment to live in. They'll pay you in return for rent, or you sell the building once you've developed it. In other cases, you're building industrial assets or hotels, or shopping centers. Whatever it might be, most real estate is based on renting space out, and we're talking physical space so someone can have the rights to occupy that space, manufacture in that space, sleep in that space, or sell items in that space.


Some of our audience, especially in the commercial real estate sector, have assets that make revenue from advertising. Often, you have a big wall and you can put a billboard on perhaps, especially if the city regulations allow you to. Now, you've got a whole new revenue stream, but most of our audience, because that's a niche within commercial real estate, aren't familiar with that business model. Could you educate some of our readers first on how the outdoor digital advertising space works on physical real estate? Then, I would like to dive in a little bit into how that applies in the metaverse.


One of the interesting things that you said there is that there's quite a lot of friction to be able to put a billboard or a screen on the side of a building. You need planning permission, and there's a capital cost of doing it. It could run to the millions for a large screen media. There are things like luminosity in terms of how bright they are at night and how close they are to roads. People may be driving as they're going past them. You've got what's the profile of the audience, etc.


As an outdoor media company, you're looking to work with property owners very simplistically in 1 of 2 ways. One that there's an opportunity to be able to place inventory on that building. You will then do a deal whereby you manage or commercialize that on their behalf. They might have some say in terms of what advertising would go on there.


If it's above a retail shopping mall, you might not want competing advertisers on there, or for example, if it's near a school, there's also a bunch of rules and regulations, like you can't have fast food on those posters. There are other kinds of layers of complexity going on top of that as well, or it could be the part of the proposition as a service-related proposition.


A company called JCDecaux, one of our partners, was very instrumental in the early days of doing this. They’d say, “What you need is some bus shelters. You’re going to need some bins, some public toilets, or some streetlights. A part of the proposition we’re going to have for you in this cash-strapped council is we're going to offer you the service, and in return for that, we're then going to monetize those infrastructures and also don't give you a share.” A large part of the proposition is a service-related proposition.


You are responsible for aggregating all that inventory together to then create campaigns working with agencies and brands directly. The brand will say, “I'm a fashion company. I’m launching my new collection and these are the people I want to reach,” and then you have a bunch of data. They are those types of people that are walking past this particular area and shopping there, and we've got mobile phone data that's showing the movements and therefore, this would be a great part of the campaign that you can use.

We have COVID to thank for the shift. If COVID has given us anything, it's that all the world is doing QR codes now.

We at Darabase work with a lot of outdoor media owners to help them to create an immersive layer to their existing inventory. We were the augmented reality partner for Piccadilly Lights and Piccadilly Circus. We did a campaign for Sing 2 for Universal Pictures where they had a promotion advertisement on the big screen saying, “Go watch Sing 2,” but it's silent because it's a big public screen.


We've got some patent-pending audio technology where we use computer vision so you can hold up your phone, it recognizes what's going on the screen, and then the audio on the public screen synchronizes on your phone. You can then hold up your phone, put it in your pocket, and then listen on your headphones to what you're seeing on a public screen, which is cool. Also, you could see the video of the full trailer, which came up on a big screen inside Piccadilly Circus, but it's all completely virtual.


There are other things you can do as well. We got another campaign about to go live with a high-end fashion company where they want to be able to promote the launch with wayfinding, a map based on experience to get you from the screen to their store. That's pretty cool. People would see it and be like, “That’s cool. Where can I go buy it?” They could follow the arrow to take them to the store. There are lots of ways that we're already working with the outdoor industry to bring our technology to help that to be facilitated.


The outdoor industry also has evolved over time where initially, you have these very static-looking billboards, then these billboards would rotate, which would allow you to have different types of advertisers, and you could command a premium for that. You're selling space and it could be by the seconds or however you do it. You started to have these physical layers or textures added on top of the billboard but as an item sticking out of the billboard. You also have digital billboards where it's like a screen, and the next layer on top of this is the QR code.


QR codes are making a comeback. I say comeback because there was a lot of hype in the VC circle around AR and QR codes, and that died down a little bit. It did take off in Asia, but not so much in the west. For example, Coinbase ran an ad in the Super Bowl. It was just a QR code. People saw a QR code. There was nothing else. You scan it and it takes you to the Coinbase website, where you can register and get some incentives like $15 worth of Bitcoin. People pay $7 million for a small slot at the Super Bowl, and this was by far the simplest ad, the cheapest ever to be produced, and yet consumers love it.


We have COVID to thank for that. If COVID has given us anything, it has told the world to scan QR codes.


Are there premiums charged for adding interactivity where you have a QR code and now, it's free for you for whatever happens in that QR code experience?


A QR code takes you to a URL or a website. It could be like Coinbase. It took you to their website. We use QR codes a lot. For example, we’re running an immersive gallery at the moment for a large property company on Sydney Harbour and they’re looking to drive people back into the office and back into this community called International Towers in Barangaroo in Sydney. We've worked with some very famous Australian artists to create these kinds of AR installations. For example, there's a car that was turned into an artwork in the Outback. You can scan the car, then hold up your phone, and there's this massive amazing artwork in the middle of this precinct on Sydney Harbour.


It has been promoted and you can scan a QR code, and the great thing from an augmented reality perspective with the QR code is it is the training wheels to get you into the experience. You already opened up your camera. You are already looking at the world through your camera. You scan this QR code, and instead of seeing the QR code, you're going into an AR experience where your camera is then also layering this other content on the world around you, making it look like it's there. From our perspective, QR codes and the prevalence of their usage have been a real boom for us because it means that it's a simple and well-understood way of adding either a location to a wall or to a piece of outdoor advertising. It’s a way of being able to say like, “There's something more you can do with this.”


To give you another example, we worked with Hewlett-Packard at COP26, the climate conference in Glasgow, in 2021. They've got some amazing sustainability projects all over the world and they wanted to be able to reach delegates of COP26 and tell them about what they were doing at HP. They had a bunch of content that already existed.


Oftentimes, the real cost and overhead of doing it, and sometimes what stops the campaign, is that creating this three-dimensional content is super expensive and you're not going to use it for anything else. They had videos and graphics. They had some interesting content about the battery recycling plant in Southeast Asia or whatever else they were doing.


We worked with them to put a simple call-to-action QR code on the digital screens, which were in international airports where people were coming into Glasgow and Edinburgh at points of departure and arrival, and also train stations and around the conference center. When you scan the QR code, this big earth appears in front of you. It’s like a shadow on the floor. You can spin the earth, and there are these hotspots on them. When you click on them, the earth turns small again, and then it tells you all about the stuff that they are doing and you can see the videos. It's all in this three-dimensional space.


We at Darabase are all about working with the property companies and the outdoor media companies, but oftentimes, we're then also helping them to create the campaigns because that helps to educate the industry and helps to create meaningful activity through which you can then start to show how properties and locations can be leveraged, whether they are existing screens or places and spaces.


QR codes are an emerging medium to pay attention to, and I really believe that they’re now coming into their prime. Three use cases I can think of are commerce, food, and property maintenance. On the commerce side, you could go to Amazon or to another website and you can see how an item might look inside of your home, which allows you to appreciate like, “Here's how the sofa or the table or whatever object I'm ordering would look in my room.” This has happened to me a couple of times. I don't bother to look at the dimensions when I order it and it arrives and it is way bigger or way smaller than I anticipated. Now, I can see exactly where I want to put it and I realize, “I don't like the shade of that.”

To a degree, virtual reality allows you to experience what was once the reality in three dimensions.

I used this when I was looking to buy a very expensive iMac from Apple. They have these beautiful iMacs. I wasn't sure which color to use. I'd gone to the store and I was trying to remember, “Was it an orange color? Was it a yellow color?” I was looking for an iMac that would match the color of my environment. Through the Apple website, I was able to place it on this desk with the exact proportion and I loved it. I then thought, “I could have two because two fits suddenly.” It changes commerce in a beautiful way.


When it comes to food, we've all been there. We've all seen it. COVID helped here. It’s when you go to a restaurant, scan the QR code, and then you can see the menu. Even then, you can do more than just see the menu. You can order items and you can pay through that interface. One to watch out for in a property, which is cool on the PropTech side, beautiful applications for how QR codes are being used. One that I've seen is for self-touring. Historically, due to COVID, it has been difficult to do in-person tours. You can do self-guided tours that have QR codes around the building or around the place. You can scan the QR code and it will tell you a lot more. You can sync it to Alexa as well so that a voice can accompany it.


Another one on property maintenance, a company I invested in, Tapi, has a cool idea where you have QR codes attached to the appliance. When there's a problem with that appliance, you've got a QR code and it pulls up the actual manual related to that appliance. If you've got a chatbot attached to that, you're talking to someone on the support team and they're asking you, “What make and model is it? Let me query that.”


Immediately, that QR code is now linked to your stove, fridge or your dishwasher. You're then able to triage. Even then, not just triage. There's also a way to give you automated instructions. This removes so many of the queries that come through that can be handled very quickly. 90% of the queries can easily be handled by having AI or a chatbot show you, “Here is what you need to do to change the light bulb. Here are the settings you need to change on the stovetop.”


I've seen a company doing that. There are with Airbnbs as well. You go through a house and there's a coffee machine. You’re like, “That looks complicated.” You scan the QR code, hold up your phone, and then it has a three-dimensional model of the coffee machine. It then goes, “Open here. Press the button,” and it pops up. There are a lot of ways. Not only can you then use QR code to do something, but you can use AI to layer on the world what it is that you can do.


To your service point, you can then allow people to see what you're seeing. A day in your phone and enable, and then they’re just looking through your phone and what you're looking at. You can even do this with glasses. HoloLens do this with Microsoft. There are Microsoft demos where you can say, “I need to fix this piece of machinery.” You put on your glasses and somebody thousands of miles away also puts on their glasses and they’re seeing what you're seeing and go, “Do you see that on the left? Press that,” because they can see your hand.


That’s so disruptive versus the old paradigm of talking to an online chat or text message chat. Here, you've got full connectivity. I bet half of our audience probably want to or do have Airbnbs and they're probably thinking about the number of queries in property management and that they can get that solved so easily. Some people are so lazy that you have to send a maintenance worker out there to fix a very quick five-minute job that can now be handled through AI chatbots or giving smart support by having a QR code.


One thing that puzzled me though, and this is for any of our audience who have been in the metaverse, I've spent quite a bit of time on these online platforms, like Decentraland, for example. This tripped me up. I go there, I'm walking through this virtual land, I see a billboard, and then I see a QR code on the billboard. I'm on my desktop and I see a QR code. I'm puzzled. I’m like, “I've got to take my phone now and point it to this QR code.” It's a trippy feeling.


The thing about technology for me is it's going to make things better. There’s so much technology that has been spoken about for a while. It’s a cool idea to look for a problem to solve. I believe that AR, augmented reality, generally has a huge opportunity to make our lives more human, more real, more entertaining, more useful, and solve some of the things that have previously got in the way because you've had to take something that's happening in life and then try and fit it onto a two-dimensional screen.

Architects are a good example. Architects are now doing these amazing CAD drawings and all these three-dimensional models. Oftentimes, they're still building something in cardboard to show you what it looks like, which is odd, in terms of creating these models. You see most of those things on a two-dimensional screen.


They’re trying to take all this three-dimensional content and put it onto a flat-screen, whereas augmented reality, and to a degree also virtual reality, allows you to then experience that in three dimensions. The human brain and the way that we understand space allow us to be able to make better decisions. We are spatial beings. It's difficult for our brains to be able to take those three dimensions and really get to grip on a two-dimensional screen.



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Real Estate in the Metaverse
How the Metaverse Could Offer Marked Changes in Workflows and Utilization
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About Zain Jaffer:

Zain Jaffer is an accomplished executive, investor, and entrepreneur. He started his first company at the age of 14 and later moved to the US as an immigrant to found Vungle, after securing $25M from tech giants including Google & AOL in 2011. Vungle recently sold for $780M.  


His achievements have garnered international recognition and acclaim; he is the recipient of prestigious awards such as “Forbes 30 Under 30,” “Inc. Magazine’s 35 Under 35” and the “SF Business Times Tech & Innovation Award”. He is regularly featured in major business & tech publications such as The Wall Street Journal, VentureBeat, and TechCrunch.

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