Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Bringing true automation to the billboard

By Diederick Ubels, Co-founder and CEO of Sage+Archer

Out-of-home (OOH) has come a long way since the paper billboards on busy roadsides. Now, OOH ads can be seen across an array of both poster and digital placements. And, with the ever-increasing use of digital technology in the world, the effectiveness of OOH has come a long way also.

Technology has meant that advertisers now have the ability to target, measure, and deliver an impactful message more effectively, bringing the digital OOH (DOOH) world more in line with online advertising. And yet, the OOH industry is still falling short of fully embracing this technology, and creating the most efficient landscape that it possibly can. The industry is missing out on the full benefits of automation.

Embracing ‘real programmatic’ in OOH

Programmatic has been spoken about, and utilised, online for many years, but has been a more recent arrival to DOOH. Within DOOH, programmatic offers a superior infrastructure to direct trading and API trading, providing all of the benefits you receive from the latter two trading types, while adding significantly more efficiency and effectiveness to the buying process. And this all means incremental revenue.

Often, players in the industry will claim to deliver programmatic advertising but, while they do to an extent, most of them are failing to provide what we call ‘real programmatic’. 

Real programmatic requires an infrastructure that enables any buyer to start buying digital out-of-home in real-time. It has to be an ecosystem which is accessible and transparent. It has to be one that gives buyers the opportunity to see where they’re buying, and what has actually been delivered. 

In addition, true automation, and accessibility, within OOH enables the use of mobile data to better understand the times and locations that are best to reach a target audience. Clients can also activate their own real-time data in an automated, efficient, programmatic way, and that makes campaigns extremely valuable and relevant.

Who’s going to move first?

One of the barriers standing in the way of the adoption of this ‘real programmatic’ is that there’s a bit of a chicken-egg situation within the industry. 

Publishers don’t trust buyers or DSPs to deliver incremental revenue, so they’re not willing to open up all of their inventory to those buyers. Of course, the issue there is that buyers can’t prove themselves unless they have that inventory available to them. And this all means that trading continues on a deal-by-deal basis, which there is absolutely nothing programmatic about.

A lot can go wrong with this setup because, the more manual input there is with the technology, the more prone it is to going wrong. In turn, this can create a negative image of automation, despite the technology not being utilised properly. And, if people aren’t enthusiastic about the infrastructure, then it’s never going to take off. 

We’re at a pivotal point in the market. It’s important that we get the efficiency, creative, and data-driven real-time programmatic elements right, and that we spend time and energy on it, because it’s the infrastructure the industry deserves. 

It’s time for the industry to see the light and start enjoying the benefits that programmatic provides, because it gives both clients and agencies loads of ways to optimise and be smarter in their buying. 

Once the industry embraces real programmatic DOOH, all parties will notice how much more efficient and effective it is, and the combination of this technology with data simply means more ad dollars going into the channel. This is the future of DOOH, and it’s time to start embracing that future now for the benefit of the whole industry.