Does ‘Programmatic Digital Out Of Home’ Need A Re-brand?

Does ‘Programmatic Digital Out Of Home’ Need A Re-brand?

Media buyers have called on the industry to ditch references to ‘buy types’ and focus on what how programmatic trading can enhance outdoor campaigns, but not everybody is convinced.

Lead image: The award-winning Guinness ‘Brewery of Meteorology’ campaign illustrates how programmatically-traded outdoor can deliver strong results.

There’s a dirty word in the media agency world that media traders do not like talking about ‘remnant inventory’ – the leftover advertising inventory that publishers have been unable to sell to advertisers and are then sold at a lower cost.

Largely due to programmatically traded display advertising shenanigans, ‘remnant inventory’ has become synonymous with inferior ad placements, poor viewability and less brand safety – and sometimes with good reason.

In the eyes of some, this has tarred the perception of all advertising that is traded through programmatic pipes, irrespective of where those ads show up and the quality of the inventory pool within a channel, even though it is common knowledge that not all advertising channels are created equal.

This concern was expressed at the recent IAB and OMA Digital Out of Home Summit by several senior media buyers who reckon that programmatic digital out of home could do with an image makeover.

Initiative chief investment office Paige Wheaton told B&T that five years ago, when agency groups were considering investing in programmatic digital out of home, there was a concern about labelling it ‘programmatic’ by association of its reputation in digital display.

She said that while the narrative has improved, she would prefer if the industry moved away from labelling digital out of home by its “buying tactic”, namely programmatic; ‘insertion order’ is never prefaced when referring to OOH.

“I think we can over complicate things and sometimes make it quite overwhelming for clients to fully understand how we see channels coming to light,” she said. “Even if you look within programmatic DOOH, the way you can use it is so diverse. You can use it to be mass reach or you can use it to be hyper targeted. You can use clients data, third party data and do all of that contextual targeting. 

“Agency groups need to do a good job of creating a narrative that says, ‘this is the role of out of home in your campaign; these are the different buying tactics we’ll be implementing. And not saying we’re just going to throw 10 per cent of our budget on programmatic out of home.”

The comparisons between programmatic out of home and display are fraught for many reasons. 

Primarily, digital display out of home inventory is a one-to-one buy and can be heavily influenced by the quality of inventory on website, whereas digital out of home inventory is often contextual by environment and a one-to-many advertising opportunity.

Trading via programmatic allows advertisers greater flexibility on when and where they show up, as well as a quicker turnaround period, but there have been some concerns about the how it is being priced.

‘Don’t say programmatic’

GroupM Nexus head of advance DOOH, James Lambert, agrees with Wheaton about its framing, explaining that at his holding company, they ditched the term ‘programmatic’ and replaced it with advanced digital.

“Paige hit the nail right on the head when she said, ‘Don’t say programmatic’. From a GroupM perspective we call it digital out of home or advanced digital out of home. We want to position it as a digital out of home first proposition that was powered and enabled by programmatic technology, data and tech.”

Lambert explains that GroupM increased its clients running programmatic digital out home from 50 clients in 2022 to more 85 clients advertising, in over 400 campaigns. The money being invested in ‘advanced DOOH’ had increased by 70 per cent year on year, ranging from new clients dabbling in the space to much larger ‘partnership level’ spends.

“I think probably the biggest and most exciting trend over the last year has been dedicated supply (for programmatically traded DOOH) across every single major publisher in the out of home space, as well as more premium formats that have become available as well,” he said. 

“There’s always been that perception around non-premium inventory, and while I personally believe that all out of home screens are amazing, we are now seeing more and more of them become accessible, which is outstanding for advertisers.”

It’s about education

Not everyone is convinced that the ‘programmatic’ tag should be dropped. JCDecaux national programmatic director Brad Palmer told B&T that it is useful to frame it through the lens of ‘programmatic’ until the industry becomes better educated. 

This means traditional outdoor buyers and planners understanding the value of programmatic, and programmatic specialists better understanding outdoor as a media channel.

“We have different audiences that we have to talk to in different ways so I personally have always found the term ‘programmatic’ useful. It helps us differentiate the conversation away from a typical broadcast campaign or network pack buy, and allows us to start thinking that inventory is being transacted through a DSP, getting a little bit more targeted in terms of your site, it’s flexible and you can cherry pick assets. 

“I’m not completely on board with the fact that it’s just ‘out of home’. Until the market is comfortable with both methods of transaction. I think we still need it.”

What is not in dispute is that programmatic trading is needed, especially if outdoor wants to grow its share of the overall advertising pie from about 5 per cent to 10 per cent.

Jean Christophe-Conti, the CEO of DOOH marketplace VIOOH, told the conference that programmatic trading could enable out of home to be part of the $836 billion global digital advertising market, enabling the channel to work across the top and bottom of the funnel.

“If you aren’t in programmatic, you are fighting for the scraps,” he said.

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