Programmatic DOOH

September 11, 2015
Not so long ago, understanding how OOH advertising deals work was as easy as popping the bonnet and inspecting a trusty old Austin Metro [my first car by the way]. All the parts were there, visible, and it was simple to see where they connected [there was only around 10 parts which worked to varying degrees]. Deals were traditionally handmade, crafted even, to an almost shocking degree. The processes of OOH buying and distribution was, [and in some instances still is!] handled by humans and most often conducted over the telephone [or fax]. Records of orders, on paper, were stored in endless filing cabinets, traded by numbers on whiteboards eventually digitised by spreadsheets and traded on Email. The mechanics of it weren’t pretty or impressive but perceived as the ‘glamorous world of Outdoor advertising’. It’s a traditional medium bought and sold in a traditional way. While it’s not streamlined or automated, it is relatively easy to see what is what.
Fast forward to today. Technology has taken the steering wheel – Online, Mobile, Radio and even TV have all benefitted from massive investment in advertising spend, as a result of embracing programmatic and automated workflows. If you were ‘pop the bonnet’ of a programmatic advertising online campaign, it’s like looking at the engine of a Tesla by comparison. There’s nothing but shiny blinking silicon, cloud servers, triple A rated centres and metal objects, all of which are executing an astonishing range of complex calculations in less than a second….. much like the good ol’ Austin Metro… not. While OOH is not an Austin Metro anymore, we’re still more Toyota Prius than Tesla Model S.
It’s tempting to just slam the hood down on the new fangled machine and stop trying to understand it. But, understanding the new world of programmatic advertising isn’t nearly as intimidating as it sounds, or indeed looks. By understanding the online model – where it has worked and where it fails – we’ll be in a great position to define how OOH 3.0 will cope/work/evolve.
OOH may have pushed forward into the digital world by digitising large swathes of estates from print to screen, we may have built data rich and contextually relevant campaigns, and we while may have impressed the world with stunts bringing OOH to a whole new audience… we still have a long way to start convincing media money to be moved from Digital to OOH.
The UK OOH business, while not in decline, is worth a steady £1bn. DOOH is seemingly cannibalising the market, worth an estimated 40% of the total OOH market by the end of 2015. Automation and Programmatic will undoubtedly be an integral step to help turn the £1bn UK OOH industry into a growth market looking up towards £1.7bn industry in 5 years. If we look back to the growth of display advertising online – and how it has embraced and been positively affected – it’s clear to see that OOH sits [as a shiny new hybrid Toyota] at a crossroads. It is imperative that we tune the engine [every part], fit some turbo chargers, get this thing in gear, and prepare to gun it…. we’re up against a Tesla who is 200 miles ahead of us, but it’s going to have to sit on charge in 110 miles or so.
Having just delivered the worlds first truly automated and programmatic, multi network DOOH campaign code named Project Wolf using OpenLoop, we can help define and evaluate a number of key elements in the chain for OOH 3.0. Our ads are already built responsive, our content already data rich and our methodology for contextual content is tried and tested. But what are the parts of the engine we need to tune, replace and polish? Is OOH ready to make a jump to 3.0?
Our new car still needs mechanics, drivers, parts, navigation and to transport passengers. There will undoubtedly be changes for the OOH media world as it adapts to a programmatic landscape. But we can categorically say that experienced programmatic “humans” are needed. Here’s just some of the many reasons…
  • Planning and Buying will need human eyes and brains to assist the processes for decision making
  • Someone needs to setup and monitor your activity – All the conversion goals and programmatic strategies need to be set up and monitored by a person to ensure they are running as planned.
  • Effective ad creatives still need to be designed – All the advertising creatives will need to be ‘man-made’ and engaging creative is more important than ever with programmatic.
  • Distribution of dynamic creative enhances your campaign by taking relevant data and turning it into tactically relevant content for your creative message. Interpreting that data needs human thought processes to validate messaging and decisions.
  • The programmatic landscape is complex – you need someone to be able to put together all the relevant pieces i.e. strategy, data, technology, creative and make them work for your organisation.
  • Programmatic media is just one tool – To run programmatic successfully an advertiser needs to understand programmatic techniques but also all the other ad tools and techniques used to convert an audience.
What Next?
Programmatic may have achieved its early success with direct response campaigns
using lower cost, remnant inventory, but progress has been made towards advancing
programmatic technology to meet the needs of brand campaigns.
Now, the fastest growing sector of programmatic ad market is brand formats; premium,
rich media formats that deliver brand marketing objectives, not just impressions and clicks.
This where Digital Out of Home fits in. Just time to wrestle the keys off the old boys and
get our Hybrid going. There’s no doubt we can catch that Tesla.