Digital screens have already transformed out-of-home, allowing brands to tailor creative by time of day and location, and driving up revenues for media owners.
With digital approaching 50% of the UK OOH market by revenue, the industry is betting that programmatic trading can further push up sales by encouraging automation and more efficient buying.
Clear Channel will roll out its programmatic platform in the UK in March. Initially, it will only feature inventory from its premium digital OOH offering, Storm, which has screens in 30 locations. But it will be followed by the addition of nearly 6,000 DOOH sites.
The platform lets media buyers book inventory on an automated basis at a fixed price. Eventually, Clear Channel hopes to make all of its trades via the programmatic platform.
"Programmatic has completely changed the way we sell and how the medium is bought," William
Eccleshare, chairman and chief executive of Clear Channel International, says, describing the platform as the company’s "big bet on the future".
Rubicon Project partnered Bitposter to launch a programmatic marketplace for OOH inventory in the UK in 2015 and Kinetic introduced its programmatic offering in 2016. However, neither has made a substantial impact on the market so far.
"Without denigrating the efforts others have made, I don’t think anyone has done it [OOH programmatic trading and deployment] in any kind of scale," Eccleshare says. "What’s being done is automated trading. This is more than that."
Clear Channel claims its platform is "truly programmatic" because it is a fully transparent, automated system that will allow buyers to monitor price,inventory and performance. This, and the desire to control full intellectual property rights, was behind the company’s decision to invest in its own platform.
Eccleshare admits Clear Channel, like others, has come under pressure to introduce programmatic to DOOH as it becomes the norm in other sectors. About 70% of online media was traded programmatically in the UK in 2016, according to Zenith.
"It makes our medium easier to buy," Eccleshare says, "and we, as a media owner, must embrace anything that removes barriers to purchase."
However, one of the great attractions of OOH is its broad reach at a time when audiences for other media are fragmenting. There may be limits to how much brands want to use programmatic to micro-target their messaging.