Digital Out Of Home Is Growing, But It Isn’t Out Of The Woods Just Yet

Digital Out Of Home Is Growing, But It Isn’t Out Of The Woods Just Yet

The global Out Of Home (OOH) market has bounced back from COVID like few others in adland (lead image: Ben Milne, global head of OOH, Dentsu).

The recovery is pretty much over, with spend back to pre-pandemic levels of almost $40 billion, which has seen it overtake radio and is set to overtake combined newspaper and magazine ad revenue.

However, as Milne explained to B&T at the Powering DOOH conference put on by IAB Australia and the Outdoor Media Association (OMA), it’s not all good news. OOH commands a 5 per cent share of the global advertising market and that has not changed since before the pandemic and, without significant changes, it looks set to stay that way.

Milne explained that programmatic DOOH could be a big growth driver for the sector but that buyers should not simply assume that all OOH inventory would, eventually, become programmatically powered.

Instead, it could help augment campaigns in a way that other media simply cannot — be able to reactively or proactively advertisers to many audiences at once. Think ads around sporting events, sun cream ads on sunny days, or ride-sharing ads when the rain comes.

One of the biggest challenges, however, was a lack of understanding and education between those with experience in OOH and those used to programmatic digital ad buying.

“We’ve definitely found working with our programmatic teams and our clients that the minute you talk to them about programmatic OOH, they assume that they can do everything in OOH that they can do online and get the same metrics around viewability and the same levels of measurement. That’s not the case,” said Milne.

“On both sides, there’s a skills gap and we need to recognise that. I talk about cutting the jargon, keeping it simple, and acknowledging the limitations of OOH.”

Some of those limitations are, of course, inherent to the medium. But Sarah Waladan, IAB Australia’s director of policy and regulatory affairs, explained that the government’s proposed changes to Privacy Act 1988 would have some unintended consequences for all types of targeted digital advertising.

“There is a clear indication by them [the government] that the definition of personal information has to be linked to a specific individual and we endorse that. We think that’s great and it’s critical because it means any regulation will actually address privacy harm. But on the definition of targeting, we think they’ve not taken the same approach. It’s a bit inconsistent,” she explained.

“It proposes harms or potential harms that are not really related to privacy and that would potentially disincentivise privacy-safe practices.”

This, according to Waladan, is even more confounding considering that the government wants Australia to become a leading digital economy by 2030.

Regardless, in the digital and programmatic OOH sector, Milne believed that Australia is not far behind the other markets he oversees for Dentsu.

“If you made me rank it, I would say the US, Australia, then the UK. I think the UK is going to catch up very quickly though. All three of those markets are actually around the average anyway, they’re not particularly far ahead. The markets that are far ahead at this point are Germany, the Netherlands, and to some extent Italy and Canada,” said Milne.

Australia, though, has a particular focus — perhaps an obsession — with measurement and, to a lesser extent verification.

“Verification is something that Australia has led on. Verification is way ahead in Australia, in programmatic in digital and OOH, compared to the UK and the US,” he added.

At the Powering DOOH conference, Grant Guedson of the Outdoor Media Association also revealed that the MOVE 2.0 OOH measurement standard would not be arriving until sometime in the first half of 2024 — much to the chagrin of the OOH media buyers in the room.

“We want unification or transparency around measurement partners across DSPs and, without that, what happens is programmatic buyers are buying into the medium [OOH] and expecting all of the intricacies, all of the metrics, all of the in-flight campaign optimisations that they are used to with online, they’re expecting that to happen and, suddenly they’re disappointed. There has been a huge mismanagement of expectations once campaigns are in flight,” said Milne.

However, the fact that the Powering DOOH conference happened at all was noteworthy. It was the first time that an OOH association had partnered with a verification-focused body like the IAB. That alone should show that Australian adland is in a good enough spot.

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