Captive Media is taking advertising to a brave new world—public restrooms
A Q&A with Captive Media head of sales and marketing Harry Taylor. The Chelmsford, England–based company was founded in 2007 and closed a $500K Seed funding round in mid-November.
SUB: Please describe Captive Media and your value proposition.
Taylor: We are a technology and media company. We manufacture a patented customer engagement and digital media technology for installation in washrooms, and manage these installations as a network. The units display interactive games to users—with scores that can be uploaded to live online hi-tables and shared—and a blend of digital media and advertising. Our value proposition comes in reaching and engaging with consumers in a rare window of time, when they are out and about, and in a manner and medium that is interruptive, memorable, and most of all enjoyable.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Taylor: Our target market in terms of installations is the washrooms in hospitality venues. That is, bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, and so on. But we are also installed in a shopping mall, an airport, and some commercial office buildings. In terms of the use of our system for messaging and advertising, while this is still in the testing phase, we would be looking for brands hoping to engage with outgoing, likely young, consumers.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Taylor: Our competition is practically non-existent in terms of the technology itself. There have been a few one-off experiments in the last few years, but ours is the only commercial product of its kind in the West. Sega have a product called the ‘Toylet’ in Japan, but this is a complete urinal plus screen setup involving microwave radiation, which seems a bit off-putting to us. There are a lot of other washroom-advertising players, but these tend to be paper posters or at best video screens; ours is unique through engagement and interactivity, and the continuation of that interaction after the game has been played.
SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps taken in establishing it?
Taylor: The company was founded officially in 2007, but there then followed a few years of unofficial R&D in peoples’ garages to get the system working. We received our patent in late 2011, and officially had our PR launch in November 2011. We got a lot of press attention in the UK and also around the world. Since then the steps have been: test the proposition with case studies—available on our website—test the waters of different customer sectors with pilots, grow the installation base organically, and we are now putting together plans to grow the network in a more targeted fashion as a result of our recent funding round.
SUB: What was the inspiration for Captive Media? Was there an ‘aha’ moment or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Taylor: A number of factors caused the Captive Media ‘inspiration’. One of our founders has a background in product development, and another in media strategy consulting. The latter was struck by how hard it was these days to engage with young consumers, especially when they are out, and the other had begun to notice the potential of washroom products such as the ‘urinal fly’. Their thoughts combined, and the product was born.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Taylor: In terms of obstacles, most obvious is the current economic climate, especially for the on-trade—pubs and small independent bars and clubs are having a tough time with people going out less-and-less, so we’re up against headwinds in terms of finding ways for our customers to afford our product and services. That said, this has helped us be innovative in terms of the purchasing options we provide, and also the target sectors we have pursued.
SUB: You just raised a significant Seed funding round. What are your plans for the funds?
Taylor: We recently received $700K in Seed funding which was fantastic. Our priority is to put this towards our sales efforts to grow our network – just to get the units and the screens out there. Our value proposition we feel to be reasonably honed now, and our understanding of our customers and targets, and how to reach them, is more developed.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Taylor: We generate our revenue in two stages. We derive revenue from the sales of the physical units themselves to venues, and secondly we derive revenue from the use of our system as an advertising network to reach these consumers. Clearly, the network must come first so our revenue is predominantly generated by the former at the current time.
SUB: What are your goals for Captive Media over the next year or so?
Taylor: Over the next year or so we hope to grow our network, first and foremost. The funding will help drive the sales process, and we hope to boost the UK network significantly in the next 12 months. Equally, we would hope to see our overseas efforts continue apace, particularly in the US market. We hope also to see our complimentary proposal—our network as an advertising asset—continue to develop as well.
Captive Media – www.captive-media.co.uk