LONDON: Exterion Media last week beat JC Decaux to win a £1.1bn contract to oversee advertising across the Transport for London (TfL) network and the company's UK managing director sees data and insights as key to its success.

In an interview with City A.M., Jason Cotterell explained that TfL's tender emphasised the London audience – its 400 stations support 30m journeys a day – and so Exterion is investing in a research tool and a workshop panel to build up accurate user data.

"Our close relationship with TfL will give us near-time, if not real-time insight into who is looking at the adverts on our assets, and we'll be able to plan and price our assets differently," he said.

While there always will be a place for traditional poster advertising, he added, a new range of large-format digital billboards will be distributed across TfL's network rather than being concentrated on just a few locations.

What will be key to their effectiveness is to understand the type of audience in those locations, Cotterell said, as he pointed to Exterion's audience behavioural insights tool, which aggregates data from the O2 telecoms network to help plan campaigns.

"We can change copy on billboards in real-time to alter the price of products featured in them," he said.

"We've got to make sure that our copy is engaging and encourages people to interact directly with our poster sites. This could be through internet beacons, URLs or radio-frequency identification. With more digital display, there'll be more dynamic copy."

It is a major opportunity – and challenge – for the company because TfL for the first time has combined advertising into a single contract across its network that includes not just London Underground, but also London Overground, Tramlink, Docklands Light Railway and the new Crossrail line once that is operational.

Shaun Gregory, chief executive of Exterion Media, agreed that the company's winning bid was grounded in being able to engage with consumers.

He told Campaign last week that TfL has huge quantities of valuable consumer data and that Exterion plans to use that information to "change the way the industry sells and is accountable to advertisers".

"It's catching up with other forms of media whether that's online or mobile. It's a coming of age for the medium," he said.

Data recently published by Outsmart, the UK out-of-home industry body, show that in the fourth quarter of 2015 digital panels accounted for £112m of advertising revenue.

Of this total, adspend on digital panels in transport environments amounted to approximately £35m, some 31% of the digital total.

Data sourced from City A.M, Campaign; additional content by Warc staff