2017 has been widely reported in the industry press as the year the programmatic juggernaut rolled into the OOH sector. With digital panels expected to account for 43% of total OOH spend this year (over double the figure of five years ago)*, many feel this has been an inevitable and perhaps overdue evolution.
As we realise that growth there are two key issues OOH needs to overcome as we really move into the world of something approaching automation, let alone programmatic.
Firstly, the audience currency which pure programmatic needs in order to function within OOH is more difficult to define than in the online world.
OOH is a one to many medium – one ad play is not representative of one eyeball (many would argue this isn’t true within online too). Although Route data does offer an industry standard audience measurement, its use as a trading metric is very much in its infancy and until it or another data set or currency is universally adopted to this end, programmatic audience buys remain difficult.
Second is overcoming the legacy of systems that were developed in a paper and paste world – getting the infrastructure and common language right is perhaps the most important first step. Standardisation of language and the creation and adoption of common industry standards are crucial, as well as balancing the technology of the possible with the implementation of the practical for the unique characteristics of the OOH industry.
Until we can agree on these industry wide themes it’s difficult to see significant adoption of programmatic trading within OOH.
In the current brand safety debate, transparency is key, and in the absence of a billposter physically going up a ladder and posting a site, DOOH has been lagging for years.
At Primesight we have recently undertaken a big piece of development, launching our new ad sales navigational tool, Pilot. A first of its kind for OOH, this addresses a lot of the infrastructural issues hampering automated and programmatic trading, improving flexibility of access and accountability by allowing brands to buy space using a "share of time" metric.
As automated systems continue to be talked about and developed within OOH, there are five key pillars around which we need to deliver improvements: compatibility, transparency, consistency, immediacy and flexibility. Here’s why:
- Compatibility is at the core of all our new developments. With OOH increasingly opening its inventory to a multitude of platforms, it’s important that the connections fit. Pilot has been built with a "universal adapter" meaning that anyone wanting to "call" the system will be able to plug straight in without difficulty.
- In the current brand safety debate, transparency is key, and in the absence of a billposter physically going up a ladder and posting a site, DOOH has been lagging for years. We’ve addressed this with the ability to offer daily playout reporting – simple to understand and immediate, clients can see exactly how their campaign was delivered.
- Consistency must remain in the buying process as we move away from the inflexible loop structure to a "share of time" model within OOH. You need to keep the consistency of display across frames – location and coverage of OOH impacts, unlike online, are paramount to most briefs. You don’t want to buy a national campaign and have all your display delivered in only one city (as great as that city may be).
- Immediacy is one of the key strengths of DOOH, but we need to be able to take advantage of this fully for clients when it comes to the buying process. Being able to automate the traditional OOH planning process means that clients (and increasingly buying platforms) will be able to access inventory quicker than ever before, effectively competing with the reactive briefs and budgets that need immediate turnaround.
- Finally, we are conscious that we need to be able to offer clients flexibility they can control. We’ve met this need by enabling the most options within the market for how an ad’s display is structured both across classic and digital – all driven by the parameters of the brief.
These are challenges that we as an industry must address, otherwise the frustrations of brands and clients may override the great potential automation can play in the OOH sector.
We believe that we have taken a good step in this direction, but collaboration across media owners, specialists and brands is needed to truly make automation work for all parties.
Matt Teeman is the managing director of Primesight.
*GroupM, "This year, next year: UK media and marketing forecasts," Nov 14, 2016.