Programmatic OOH can and must learn from the issues that have been seen in display advertising, particularly on the issue of standardised measurement, argues VIOOH’s Helen Miall.

It is fair to say that out-of-home (OOH) advertising has had a tumultuous year. Who could have predicted a situation where long-held patterns of consumer behaviour based on predictable routines would be disrupted overnight, as countries dealt with the coronavirus pandemic by going into national lockdown? 

Indeed, our 2019 State of the Nation report predicted that 2020 would be the year that programmatic OOH went mainstream.

Fast forward 12 months and, whilst COVID-19 is still a factor in our everyday lives, the change forced upon us has, in many industries, also brought new opportunities. Digital transformation in general has accelerated due to COVID-19 and, specifically for the OOH industry, the automation of previously manual processes and the adoption of programmatic technology and trading is an essential element to mitigate the uncertainty of future lockdowns and to recover.

Our latest State of the Nation study, conducted in August 2020, supports this optimistic view of the future, showing that both advertisers and agency executives are fully on board with programmatic OOH, with 60% believing programmatic that OOH is providing the most innovative opportunities, behind only social media and digital video. 

Looking ahead, 99% of UK respondents expect to increase spend on OOH using programmatic technology in the next 12 months, and over a third (37%) predict they will more than double their spend compared to the previous 18 months. 

Urgent need for a standardised system of measurement

However, what continues to stand out as a barrier to even wider and more rapid adoption is the ongoing debate around the standardisation of the measurement of programmatic OOH.

The State of the Nation report highlighted the urgent need for the industry to align on a standardised measurement system that is tailored to the nuances and broadcast nature of programmatic OOH.

As the worlds of digital programmatic and OOH come together, there are discrepancies between traditional OOH terminology and measurements, how they apply in programmatic campaigns, and the standard display terminology and measurements used by the programmatic buy-side. Simply applying the same display criteria to programmatic OOH does not work; rather, a set of agreed terminology and measurement metrics, standardised across all players in the industry, is what is needed to drive adoption.

As a broadcast, one-to-many medium, OOH has always been renowned for brand-led campaigns. Layering on programmatic technology and data has now enabled programmatic OOH to also work well for performance-based campaigns. In the UK research, 60% of both agencies and advertisers agree that programmatic OOH is important for brand-led campaigns, whilst 55% of agencies and 70% of advertisers believe that programmatic OOH is important for performance-led campaigns.

However, when asked about how they believe programmatic OOH campaigns should be measured, on average 69% of UK respondents believe performance-based metrics should be used, whilst 57% were looking for more information about cross-channel measurement and attribution. Overall, executives are excited about the possibilities that programmatic OOH can offer, with 86% agreeing there are innovative solutions to measure and track the attribution of programmatic OOH.

Cross-industry collaboration

VIOOH is working with several other digital OOH (DOOH) technology platforms to finalise a set of agreed terminology for defining DOOH inventory venue taxonomy, in order to standardise the format of venue-naming conventions, and is implementing these into our platform. This will make it easier for campaign set up and comparison across media owner inventory, thereby reducing complexity and barriers to adoption on the buy-side. We are also involved with the IAB UK’s DOOH Advisory Group, made up of representatives across the programmatic ad tech and DOOH space, who are working to agree further industry-level standards.

Programmatic OOH can, and must, learn from the issues that have been seen in display: we do not have to worry about issues around bot fraud or long-tail, unknown inventory, but do need to align and agree on the standards we want for our industry that will show just how powerful, impactful and effective the category can be.

Only with common programmatic standards – in terms of both terminology and technology – that are specific to OOH, is it possible to fully inspire the confidence of those people we are asking to invest in our platform and provide the full transparency which is essential for growth. 

It is my fervent hope that future State of the Nation reports will reflect significant progress made in this space which will only serve to benefit all parts of the advertising ecosystem.