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What is programmatic OOH and 3 benefits it holds for marketers

Jul 11, 2017
What is programmatic OOH and 3 benefits it holds for marketers

OOH, or Out Of Home, marketing has been a favourite of many a brand for some time, but what does it mean for your OOH to be programmatic? This week we’re unpacking the term and exploring three practical ways brands can make the shift.

First up, what is OOH?

As its full name might suggest, OOH is a form of marketing which takes place, in the most literal sense, out of the home. This can incorporate anything from billboards to bus banners, and has traditionally been a non-digital form of marketing reliant on simple, eye-catching messaging that reaches a wide audience. Often linked to the concept of location marketing, in the sense that a well-placed advertisement could influence a potential customer in the right place at the right time, OOH has held its own in an industry increasingly dominated by new technologies and constant internet access.

What is programmatic OOH? 

Programmatic OOH differs from its non-digital brethren in a number of ways. Generally speaking, programmatic refers to a growing trend in digital marketing which is quickly becoming a major source of investment for organisations. Smart Insights defines ‘programmatic marketing’ as ‘automated bidding on advertising inventory in real time, for the opportunity to show an ad to a specific customer, in a specific context.’ Working at speeds of milliseconds and approaching complete automation, programmatic is effectively a high speed auction in which brands compete for impressions and conversions on a pay per win basis.

As fairly unchartered territory even for mainstream digital marketing such as webpage and SEO, marketers are only just beginning to explore what the technology could mean for OOH. A recent article by Ad Exchanger suggested that with OOH ‘projected to grow almost 12% in spend by 2020’ and ‘forty-nine percent of media planners place[ing] digital OOH on their plans in the past year,’ the idea is on the cusp of exponential growth.

The model is not yet perfected, with Ad Exchanger highlighting that unlike digital programmatic, ‘in OOH, one bid request garners multiple impressions, making it difficult to compare pricing with digital.’ As yet it is essentially ‘impossible to know exactly how many people will actually look at the board while an ad is running,’ and so marketers will be watching closely as the platform develops to establish whether it is worth the financial investment.

Three advantages of programmatic OOH

1) Multi-platforming through mobile data

If it is so difficult to know the reach and impressions created by any given programmatic billboard campaign, why exactly should marketers dedicate time, energy and money to building creative suited for programmatic OOH? 

One reason is the close link programmatic OOH is likely to build with mobile marketing. Heavily reliant on location data and proven to be popular among customers looking for location-specific offers on the move, OOH could provide another link in the mobile marketing chain which constantly seeks to provide the most appropriate offer at any given time. By leveraging mobile location data to plan, target and measure OOH media, marketers can link up data from across platforms to provide follow ups or action-orientated messaging in a much more nuanced way than traditional OOH methods.

2) Real-time creativity

Another advantage of programmatic OOH is that the platform can play host to a wide range of creative opportunities which are as yet unexplored by marketers. This idea was discussed recently by Campaign Live, suggesting that ‘in addition to being able to buy digital OOH in incredibly focused, targeted and flexible ways, it’s already possible to serve creative content that adapts to multiple, real-time data feeds.’

Allowing content to in effect be created and edited in real time ‘in response to relevant data triggers in any and every site location,’ Campaign Live argues that ‘this highly dynamic use of digital OOH is arguably the biggest single step forward for the OOH medium in decades.’ With the capacity to transform the creative potential of campaigns and remove the boundaries to imagination that pre-planning requires, programmatic OOH may lie at the heart of future campaign innovations for many brands. 

3) A way around ad-blocking

One debate which continues to fascinate the marketing world is the challenge of ad-blocking. Digiday recently reported that ‘in the U.K., publishers are losing up to £2 million a year in ad revenue due to ad blocking.’ With 88 percent of people in the UK finding online ads interruptive, the trend towards distaste for and distrust of advertising shows no sign of slowing. 

And yet programmatic OOH could be just the solution many marketers are looking for. Forbes contributor Julian Mitchell has reported that the complex challenges presented by consumer apathy to online advertising has inspired the birth of one startup ‘aiming to equip advertisers with the tools needed to target and reach a diverse segment of consumers both online and offline.’

This startup is called Mira, and delivers crowd analytics in real-time. Mira utilises the fact that public wifi facilities pick up signals from smartphones and electronic devices searching for a connection, and seeks to trace this information back to the owner of said device. By discovering which demographic the owner falls into, marketers can then use insights and basic assumptions about any given group in order to better target the advertisement displayed on a digital billboard in a specific location.

Mitchell notes that since ‘Mira can process and aggregate this influx of information within 3 milliseconds [and therefore] paint a very detailed snapshot of the crowd makeup within a specific area,’ this could be a game changer for marketers. With these ideas already playing a part in the marketing mix and looking set to increase in dominance in the not-too-distant-future, programmatic OOH could be the trend to watch for the remainder of 2017 and beyond.


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