Franck Racapé on PPDS’ rebrand one year on and going strong

PPDS is approaching its one-year anniversary since rebranding and repositioning the business. PCR speaks with Franck Racapé, Vice President EMEA – Philips professional displays at PPDS to find out how the company has evolved during this time, what’s been achieved and what to expect going forward. 

 How would you describe the response to the rebrand, both internally and externally?
We were delighted with the response across the industry to the launch of our new brand identity. Internally of course, it was something we had been discussing and developing for more than a year prior. We’d actually been setting the scene, as a natural progression of our business, during that period through our external communications to help the transition from a brand perspective. As a part of this brand transition, we moved from referring to ourselves as Philips Professional Display Solutions to Philips PDS, paving the way for our new name – PPDS.

The switch to PPDS was far from just a new name and logo on our business cards, though. It marked an evolution of the business and a fundamental shift in our strategy and our position in the marketplace in terms of what we stand for and the value we bring. Our company is built on incredibly strong foundations, bringing together the strength of TPV – the biggest supplier of displays globally – and the rich heritage of Philips, proven for quality-assured products. And from a value point of view, we wanted to emphasise on three main directions. First, our Global approach, to facilitate global project roll out. Second is Sustainability – to become a leader in ESG and sustainability commitment. And third is Total Solutions, to move to offering our partners support that goes well beyond just a display. To do that, we implemented our ‘total solutions’ strategy, inspiring and enabling our customers with a more joined-up approach.

We also launched a brand-new website – ppds.com – a platform bringing our Philips professional displays together with our partner solutions, as well as inspiration across the industries, and global thought leadership.

Tell us more about the ‘total Solutions’ strategy? What does it actually mean?
We are and will always remain a hardware manufacturer, this is what customers know us for and we will continue leveraging our manufacturing strengths to become a global leader. But due to our unique position in terms of technology (Android, Open standard, High performance engine), we aim to bring Total Solutions developed around our hardware with our ecosystem of partners. We are here to provide complete digital signage, interactive, direct view LED display and professional TV solutions, together with our partners, bringing more value around our displays, including hardware and software.

This allows us to support our partners and their customers – whatever vertical they operate in – in a way that meets their creative needs and unique requirements.

Can you give us some examples of solutions formed as part of this strategy?
The strategy includes developing solutions in-house – such as Guest Connect, CMND (Create, Control, Deploy and Reception), our upcoming Cloud-based platform, and our Air Quality Sensor – and through strategic partnerships with selected third-party companies. Partners can come to us for a display and build their own solution around it, or they can count on us for a ready-to-roll out, proven total solution.

That’s a fundamental difference. It helps our partners reduce time and expense sourcing the right solutions, knowing that everything has been tested, is already compatible and can be fully calibrated to meet the needs of the end customer before leaving our warehouses.

And after the rebrand?
It’s a short question with a long answer. Since the unveiling of our new identity, we’ve really accelerated that strategy and put the pedal to the metal – a phrase that has even more meaning with our new partnership as Team Supplier with Red Bull Racing! We have formed and announced partnerships with some of the world’s biggest and most successful hardware and software providers to bring ground-breaking, innovative and, importantly, dedicated solutions to market in order support all major verticals.

Examples include Logitech, bringing world class camera technology to our displays for greater collaboration and opportunities for our education and corporate solutions.

We’re a strategic and certified partner of Crestron, offering one of the deepest joined-up relationships in the industry for its products and solutions, such as XiO Cloud for display management, with its technology now built into our displays. And of course, we are currently out with them on the Crestron Next Road Trip.

We also introduced our AI driven ‘Intelligent Signage Solution for Retail’, bringing once unimaginable insights and targeted marketing opportunities inside stores, through a partnership with Intel, Advantech and Navori Labs.

And we introduced our ‘Air Quality Sensor’ designed to help businesses and schools monitor the air quality inside their workplaces, for healthier and more productive environments.

These are just a handful of joined up, deeply integrated partnerships for specific products and verticals. What we have achieved in a year is nothing short of incredible and we’re only just getting started.

How did this strategy impact the performance of the business in 2021?
I’m glad you asked. 2021 was undoubtedly a challenging year for us, our partners, their customers, and the global market as a whole. However, one of my favourite quotes is from Sun Tzu, who famously said that “in the midst of chaos, there is alsoopportunity.” That’s how I would describe 2020 and 2021. While some opted to shelter themselves and wait for the storm to clear, we, as a business, took some very bold decisions to meet the challenges head-on, with our full team of people all continually employed. The impact of those decisions resulted in us achieving one of our most successful years to date.

How so?
During 2021, we saw significant rises in our professional TV business, which may surprise many given the hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit as a result of the pandemic. In this period PPDS achieved market leadership in a number of regions, including the Nordics, Benelux and DACH, for our Chromecast built-in Philips MediaSuite professional TVs.

We also saw some impressive growth in our Digital Signage and LED businesses, with Spain and Italy experiencing record rises. This wasn’t through luck. This was a direct result of our decision to embrace challenges, not only to support our own business, but as a part of our commitment to supporting our partners and, by extension, their customers.

What were some of these ‘bold‘ decisions you took?
Back in March 2020, there was no contingency plan in place for how to successfully manage the business during a global pandemic. Whatever we decided, we had to get right, not only for the sake of our own business but for our partners, too.

So, we had to react fast, bring our global teams and their expertise together, and write and introduce new policies and methods. During the height of the pandemic, as a business, we took the decision to ensure we were supporting the market as much as we could. We’re proud that we retained all members of staff throughout, with no cuts, no reduction in hours or furlough schemes. In fact, we expanded our team, filling gaps we felt needed reinforcing – including the creation and expansion of our new IKAM team.

We also, from the moment the first lockdowns arrived, created new partnership programs to support our partners and their customers, helping to ensure projects were able to continue and to reduce some of the financial burdens. We did this, in part, by redirected our budgets reserved for events like ISE.

For many industries, notably hospitality, the pandemic meant complete shutdowns. We saw opportunities to ensure that we and our partners were able to remain active. This meant our partners could continue, while hotels, for example, were able to upgrade and futureproof their premises ready to welcome back guests.

We all needed to come together and work our way through this. The results we have seen all are a credit to our teams and to our partners.

Tell us more about the IKAM team.
The creation of our IKAM team (International Key Account Management) was part of our approach to offering global consistency with local expertise. This approach provides a single point of contact for global brands and enterprises to ensure fast, tailored, reliable, and fully optimised solutions with direct support at all times.

Crucially, for organisations with multiple national or international locations, whether offices or retail stores, we’re able to ensure a seamless and consistent approach, providing complete support from pre- to post-sales, encompassing strategy, pricing, contracting, operations, and services. We understand the pains and frustrations that can accompany installation projects, and with IKAM, we’re streamlining everything, so our partners and their customers can focus on what you do best, while our team take care of the finer details. It’s been a tremendous success in 2021 and we’ll continue to evolve and enhance this approach this year and in years to come.

What verticals will you be most focused on in 2022?
Our general business approach will continue, with interactive touch screens, direct view LED displays, digital signage and professional TVs supporting all core verticals (hospitality, retail, corporate, education, healthcare) all remaining key products and focus areas. As a business, we’ve always prided ourselves on being able to react quickly to changing market needs, whatever they happen to be.

One of the biggest differences for us comparared with some in the market, is that we have products and teams dedicated to each of the verticals I have mentioned. We don’t believe in a one size fits all approach and our displays, whether digital signage, professional TVs, our interactive displays have been designed and built with the vertical in mind, equipped with the right hardware and software.

To achieve that, we leverage our own expertise as well as feedback from our customers and leading providers in the field. We don’t simply build a display, load on some software and call it, for example, an education display. That’s not how PPDS does business and that will never change.

How have the global component shortages impacted PPDS?
It’s been a challenging period and there’s no denying the entire industry has been impacted, some, sadly, more than others. Collectively we have all been hit by six key shortages. These include a lack of panels, lack of IC, lack of containers, lack of wharf, lack of electricity, and lack of manpower.

For us, with our own factories as a part of TPV, though, we have been able to weather the storm more effectively than most, and we were still able to fulfil the majority of orders and demand thanks to a combination of our manufacturing scale and forward planning.

With all our teams continuing to work as normal throughout the pandemic, delays around new products have not been impacted and all the new products and solutions for 2022, and even those being developed for 2023, are on track to be unveiled and launched within the timescales we have always planned.

We don’t know what will happen in the future but we have a duty and a resposnibility to be ready. At PPDS, we have shown that we have the scale, the organisation, the people and the experience to support the needs and demands from the market. The pandemic was an opportunity to test our own resolve and we’re satisfied we’ve taken the right approach and, in turn, we feel closer than ever to our customers as a result.

What are your plans for ISE 2022?
ISE 2022 will remain one of our biggest events of the year in Europe. With the postponement, it does mean that some of our new solutions have now been announced away from the show, such as our updated range of Philips MediaSuite models. These will go on display for the first time at the show in Barcelona. We will still have plenty of key announcements to make, with solutions for education, corporate and hospitality among many, some big news around our direct view LED display portfolio and some exciting Cloud platform news. I’d love to tell you more but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until May 10-13, in Barcelona.

Finally, what can we expect from PPDS throughout 2022?
2022 has already become an historic year for the company, proudly becoming a Team Supplier for Red Bull Racing (RBR) Formula One team, anounced in February. This includes providing displays for their world class VIP trackside hospitality services to guests, including LED technology, especially designed for the fast-paced, always on-the-move world of F1. As with our total solutions strategy, working with companies that are driven by performance, such as RBR, is positively challenging and we keep on pushing our limits, which our partners will also benefit from.

Overall, 2022 will be another busy year in the market for PPDS, with the results of our teams’ work, market insights and continued feedback forming and then evolving our product roadmaps. We will continue to support all key verticals with dedicated displays – as opposed to a one display fits all approach – we are always mindful of changing needs and requirements, and indeed unique challenges faced by every industry.

Hybrid working and learning will continue to be a major area of focus and development, with interactive displays, and the ability to collaborate an important area for us. We will also continue to evolve our products and our product offerings via strategic partners, to complement our displays.

We want to continue to break the silos between hardware and software provision to ensure all major verticals are supported and can have complete, fully provisioned, and highly innovative solutions when doing business with PPDS. This allows our customers to be truly creative with the solutions they add to our displays.

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