Out-of-home (OOH) advertising has been sitting on the sidelines during the recent digital data arms race. However, over the past year, outdoor companies have been working to both catch up and keep up with how media are purchased today. The larger players in the space are leaning into programmatic buying while updating their measurement sources for greater accuracy. But despite the efforts of out-of-home media partners to adjust their strides for the present-day pace, they still have a long way to go.
Here’s a glance at what the world of OOH is experiencing and what’s to come.
The Major Changes So Far …
OOH inventory can now be bought programmatically, albeit with limited scale and some important caveats. In 2017, Clear Channel partnered with Rubicon Project to develop a private marketplace that gives advertisers access to buy digital OOH inventory programmatically.
Outfront followed suit by acquiring a supply-side platform (SSP) to make its inventory available on media exchanges.
These moves put Lamar on their heels—forcing the company to get in the game by reviewing both SSP and private marketplace as potential options for digitizing their inventory transactions.
On the buying side, demand-side platforms (DSPs) like MediaMath and Tubemogul have added OOH capabilities, so advertisers and agencies can tap into available inventory.
Movement in Measurement
Traffic Audit Bureau (or TAB) had been the standard for years, leveraging traffic patterns and counts to estimate exposure for individual OOH locations. TAB has made a major shift to focus on audience behavior, rebranding the company as GeoPath in 2016 to underscore the change.
GeoPath collects anonymous location data from mobile IDs and cars, merging that information with other data such as weather changes or flight schedules to provide better measurement and create targeting opportunities.
With potentially thousands of drivers passing a single location each day, one-to-one targeting remains out of reach. However, GeoPath is still aggregating the additional data to give advertisers a richer understanding of who they are reaching with OOH.
This move to programmatic out-of-home is full of potential, but it’s important to keep in mind one thing during this transition: only digital OOH inventory can be purchased programmatically (while static inventory cannot). Though not surprising, it does create a scale and coverage issue.
Additionally, those digital locations are not evenly distributed across the country—while stretching across ad types ranging from displays in malls and airports to more typical roadside billboards and transit ads.
Beyond that, non-traditional out-of-home is another consideration, which includes coffee sleeves, gas station ice boxes and in-aisle floor decals that go unaccounted for in the programmatic OOH media mix.
With These Changes, There Are a Few Things to Consider …
The next frontier of OOH advertising is coming, and the opportunities are exciting. Programmatic OOH buying may end up changing the definition of “cross device” to be more than mobile, desktop and TV—it may open the door for layering the audience targeting that advertisers know and love from online advertising onto OOH inventory.
This advertising platform is still reminiscent of the Wild West, however. Before broad adoption can happen, there still needs to be an expansion of digital inventory or an option for non-digital OOH units. A programmatic outdoor solution already exists for a national brand that’s targeting top-15 markets including Chicago, New York and San Francisco, but it will be a while before this makes sense for brands focused on local and regional spaces.
While many things have changed in recent years with where and how media are placed, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the truth that no single media tactic is the answer to a brand’s challenge. A diverse media mix remains ever important for companies seeking to surround and reach their target audience, and programmatic OOH is becoming yet another opportunity that warrants consideration.