Why now is the time to get serious about programmatic OOH

Ben Allman
By Ben Allman | 18 June 2020

Ben Allman is sales director ANZ at Broadsign.

As shops, restaurants, bars, gyms and many workplaces begin re-opening, so too does the out-of-home (OOH) sector. And while audiences gradually edge their way closer to pre-COVID levels, the industry eagerly waits to see at what rate the corresponding ad dollars will return.

While a number of prominent OOH publishers have recently reported an increase in briefing activity, it comes as no surprise that many marketers have had their budgets slashed or scrapped altogether thanks to COVID. Furthermore, the OECD recently released research suggesting that a second wave of COVID infections would essentially derail our economy (just in case it hadn’t already been derailed). Such uncertainty means that those marketing budgets which remain are under more scrutiny than ever before.

With the general public emerging from over three months spent indoors, OOH should be a firm favourite on many post-COVID marketing plans. Consumers are drawn to messages of confidence, particularly during periods of uncertainty and what better way to exude confidence than by utilising a medium so firmly fixed in the public space.

In an era where marketers are under increasing pressure to do more with less, programmatic technology brings a lot to the table in terms of its ability to turbocharge the planning, buying, measurement and reporting of campaigns. If you’re not already considering programmatic for your next OOH campaign, here’s why you should be.

1. Be more nimble
Flexibility and agility are hallmark benefits of programmatic technology across any medium and with Government guidelines changing regularly, advertisers need to be more nimble than ever before. There’s been a lot written about this recently and for good reason; in a time where many industries and businesses begin to reopen amidst the threat of a ‘second wave’, the ability to stop, start, pause or even optimise your campaign at a moment’s notice cannot be underestimated. Back in early-March (which feels like decades ago) we were running a campaign promoting a warehouse sale, until COVID put a swift end to that. Instead of pushing the activity back to a later date the advertiser was able to reinvest their remaining budget into online activity to support their e-commerce business.

2. Be more targeted
Content is king but context is everything. The ability to target specific creatives to specific locations at specific times with ease is incredibly powerful and is one of digital OOH’s (or DOOH’s) biggest benefits. Programmatic technology takes this further by not only enabling advertisers to focus on the locations, audiences and moments which are most important to them but by enabling this at scale, based on an unlimited number of triggers. For example, McDonald’s may wish to promote their McCafé menu items on screens close to the nearest drive-thru but only on weekday mornings when the weather’s poor and the traffic is bad. A campaign such as this couldn’t be executed directly, as McDonald’s would have no way of knowing where and when it should run ahead of time. A word of warning however, while greater targeting can help drive campaign effectiveness, it’s important not to target yourself out of business. The aforementioned McDonald’s campaign may be extremely effective but if it’s only reaching a handful of people it’s not going to sell much coffee!

3. Be more ‘omni-channel’
An often recited benefit of OOH (and DOOH) is its complementary nature. OOH has an ROI-boosting effect on other mediums when included as part of an omni-channel campaign. According to research conducted by Nielsen, DOOH in an omni-channel campaign drives four times more online activity per ad dollar spent than TV, Radio or Print alone. Many of the demand-side platforms (DSPs) you may currently use for your Online programmatic campaigns can also be used for your DOOH campaigns. By using an omni-channel DSP you can add DOOH to your Online campaigns with ease while managing everything through a single platform.

4. Be more data driven
Needing to demonstrate the return of audiences to roads, shops, train stations, gyms and airports post-lockdown, many OOH publishers are turning to more real-time sources of audience data. As the industry moves from selling screens and locations to selling audiences and moments, real-time data increasingly becomes the currency which underpins how OOH is bought and sold. By utilising more real-time data sources, transacting in a more real-time manner (i.e. programmatically) becomes all the more viable.

5. Be more efficient
While cuts to salaries, hours and teams are unfortunately widespread across much of the industry, the reality is that workloads haven’t necessarily decreased accordingly. With many teams and organisations running leaner than ever before, it’s imperative to look at how every aspect of business can be done more efficiently. OOH is a notoriously finicky medium to plan & buy directly and through the use of programmatic technology, much of the manual work involved can be automated across multiple publishers.

Prior to the onset of COVID-19, the aforementioned benefits of programmatic OOH were already gaining popularity amongst many advertisers and agencies. In an era where marketers will need to do more with less, the ability to plan, buy, measure and report with greater flexibility, agility, targeting, ease, efficiency and data will be more important than ever. Just as Online programmatic boomed off the back of the global financial crisis, programmatic OOH will boom off the back of COVID-19 and will be a driving force in the OOH sector’s inevitable resurgence.

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