A new report by VIOOH argues that out-of-home stands to gain from the benefits of automation, without facing the drawbacks experienced by digital media. Sue Hunt explains why.

There’s a new dawn in out-of-home advertising. The adoption of digital and programmatic techniques and technologies is making this most trusted and traditional of mediums a must-have in every marketer’s plan.

As an industry we have learned from the growing pains that other media have encountered in adopting such technology, meaning that programmatic digital out-of-home (DOOH) offers the best of both worlds – without the problems programmatic has caused online.

It’s why we expect to see an influx of cash to the medium – some new money, some directed from those ‘problem’ online channels, from both existing advertisers spending more and new clients attracted to the medium.

We knew that for OOH to enhance its status as a valued, trusted and amplifying medium, it needed to embrace the digital tools that advertisers expect from other channels. We also knew that advertisers were increasingly pushing agencies for more accountability and cross-channel integration from DOOH, and that agencies were demanding this of media owners.

But what we didn’t know was the scale of the appetite that existed, and the challenges and opportunities they envisaged. So, we asked. In quarter one of this year we undertook a comprehensive qualitative ‘state of the nation’ report of OOH and, more specifically, programmatic DOOH, interrogating senior executives from across the UK ecosystem. The results were enlightening – and encouraging.

Complementary medium

Our expert panel believed (as we do) that outdoor will continue to grow, fuelled by digital and programmatic trading and technologies. They said that the automation, efficiency, accountability, measurability and accessibility offered by programmatic would resonate with advertisers. Similarly, they believed that OOH’s strengths such as viewability, brand safety and creativity would only be enhanced.

Outdoor has always complemented other media. Now digital and programmatic technologies are amplifying mobile, social, TV and, most recently, audio, and enabling a unified strategy across the whole digital ecosystem.

Together this means DOOH can provide a best-in-class environment for both brand building and activation activities as part of an advertiser’s wider media and marketing strategy.

Our research highlighted the importance of focusing on the positives of programmatic and redefining expectations: flexibility of budget allocation and execution; technological efficiencies through the application of data; a premium and transparent marketplace; and, most of all, making DOOH accessible to digital buyers.

There remain challenges – both real and imagined – such as a fragmented marketplace and metrics which differ from established programmatic norms, in a one-to-many, not a one-to-one, medium such as ours.

But as Joel Livesey, Director of Partnerships at The Trade Desk, said when we launched our research this month: “I’m optimistic because programmatic DOOH doesn’t seem to be as exposed to the flaws that other channels have.”

Similarly, Stuart Hall, Managing Partner of Product at GroupM argued that DOOH is “already becoming plannable using some of the same targeting capabilities we use for other media”.

Of course, caution and temperance should be our watchwords. We must ensure that programmatic DOOH doesn’t become a race to the bottom. Our research shows the ecosystem is united in its determination to prevent this from occurring.

There is also an education piece to consider: we must make sure that everyone involved in the planning and buying of programmatic DOOH is well versed in its idiosyncrasies and uses those to its advantage, rather than to its detriment.

Our research shows an appetite for collaboration and closer working relationships to bake in excellence and define expectations and standards from the start.

Far from being too late to the programmatic party to play, could DOOH teach those digital old dogs some valuable new tricks?