It is too early to tell whether programmatic as a way of buying will take over completely, but we can be sure that it will represent a part of the way OOH is bought in the future.
Programmatic buying is often described as the future of online advertising and debate is raging around whether it is the future of all media buying, OOH included. It is growing massively and, globally, the big media groups are buying up as much programmatic capability as they can get their hands on. It is too early to tell whether programmatic as a way of buying will take over completely, but we can be sure that it will represent a part of the way OOH is bought in the future (in fact, there have already been some programmatic OOH purchases in other markets). So at the very least we should all have an idea of what it is and maybe give some thought as to how OOH locally might participate or even compete.
Most definitions of programmatic buying are so full of jargon that they may as well have been written in code. So, at the risk of oversimplifying, let’s have a go at defining it in English. Programmatic ad buying can be understood as the use of software to purchase digital advertising, as opposed to the traditional process that involves RFPs, human negotiations and manual insertion orders. Basically, it is using machines to buy ads.
Programmatic buying uses real-time systems, rules and algorithms to automate the delivery of data driven, targeted and relevant experiences to consumers as they interact with a brand’s many touchpoints. Because programmatic allows the purchase decision/action to be made in real-time, based on the live analysis of audience, available inventory and price, it allows us to place more relevant advertising, more efficiently, which in turn makes it more effective.
Said in a cooler way, programmatic is the uber-fication of the media buying process.
Got it? Good. Now that the boring part is over, we can look at how exciting this could be for OOH.
Programmatic in OOH in SA
The potential for programmatic in OOH is exciting because of the massive variety that the medium offers. Specifically, OOH reaches large audiences, in a plethora of locations and environments, via a vast range of formats and platforms, and in a myriad of contexts. Due to the fact that programmatic OOH’s (prOOH) efficacy relies on the ability to be able to serve the advertisement itself in real-time, programmatic in OOH will only ever have an advantage when applied to Digital OOH (aka DOOH) media. Despite the current economic environment in SA, the massive boom in DOOH inventory in a huge array of environments seems only to be increasing in intensity, which means that the potential for a PrOOH solution is growing every day.
A programmatic platform in OOH will let us make purchases and serve ads to specific spots on specific DOOH screens from any network, based on the location of the screen, the audience that is likely to see the specific spot, its proximity to a particular point of interest, the weather, what’s happening in a nearby store, what has just happened in the Pirates/Chiefs game, or even what topics are trending on social media in the area at that particular moment in time.
As I have just shown, it is easy to get carried away in the detail of what might be. In the interest of clarity and simplicity, we consider the necessary ingredients for a PrOOH solution in three main parts:
Real-Time Planning: Planning with live availability data feeds from media owners so that the process is quicker, less iterative and more efficient.
Ad Serving: Full, automated content management and adserving for all digital content, linear or dynamic, static and full motion.
Automated transaction: A real-time, automated transaction platform driven by algorithmic decision-making technologies, including a real-time bidding algorithm. This would be based on audience targeting, but could also use event based triggers such as weather, sales and social trends.
We are not all that far off having what we need to make PrOOH a reality in SA. In fact, there are some niche offerings that are really close, but the key to PrOOH as a genuinely advantageous offering to clients is the ability to deliver highly targeted, highly contextual campaigns en masse.
So let us take a look at the trends and developments in SA that will eventually enable PrOOH at scale.
OMC – A quantum leap
The OOH Measurement Council has demonstrated that the biggest players in the market are willing to share information about inventory that enables an easier buy for clients. The OMC’s biggest gift to the industry is the establishment of an OOH audience currency. The current research is limited to static roadside for now, but DOOH is coming in the future. Regardless, having an OOH industry currency will see agencies and clients moving away from cherry-picking sites based on emotion and perceived value, towards more analytical analysis that focuses on audience and impressions – i.e. campaign performance targeting.
While ‘landmark’ sites will always be the exception, inevitably, the industry will move towards audience planning as with TV. This will create an uplift not only in spend on OOH, but in the way that the industry thinks about and markets itself; using audience data. A GRP based OOH economy will eventually lead to price bidding based on the audience criteria of inventory in OOH. PrOOH buying in its simplest form will be the automation of this bidding and purchasing transaction.
Innovation in DOOH inventory packaging, selling and buying
While numbers are extremely hard to come by, and the definition of where DOOH ends and retail or online begins is blurring, we roughly estimate that DOOH is growing at a rate of 50% yoy. DOOH inventory has started to diversify, and so has the way inventory is sold to clients. As the flexibility with which DOOH space is sold and the speed with which ads can be served on each screen increases, so does the accuracy of DOOH targeting. To get to a point where it becomes useful for PrOOH, agencies would need to be able to bid on and buy individual spots on individual screens in real-time.
This would require integration between the buying party’s real-time planning/bidding/buying platform and the media owners’ media management and sales software, which would need to be dynamic too. In addition, there would also need to be an agreement on pricing structures and rules within and across the participating supply chain.
Data, data, data
The more digital technology becomes integrated with consumers lives and clients’ businesses, the more input data we have available to inform our advertising placement decisions.
Meaning we can be more precise with which placements we bid on and buy. The smartest and most compelling PrOOH solutions are going to include the analysis of real-time data generated in the immediate vicinity of the locations that ads are being served into. The real power of PrOOH is going to be our ability to leverage insight into the general context of the consumers’ experience of an ad in each specific location so that we can serve the right ad, to the right audience, at the right time and in the correct context.
Availability of automated artwork contextualisation and serving
Consistently, research from around the globe has re-iterated the efficacy of contextually relevant messaging on OOH. The availability of dynamic DOOH advertising content generation and serving platforms like Liveposter means that agencies like Posterscope now have the ability to populate DOOH advertising creative with relevant messaging and serve to individual screens in as close to real-time as the media owners’ network can facilitate. A great example of the power of a tool like this is the launch of Microsoft Cortana in the UK, where Liveposter served 10 000 ads per day on DOOH screens.
When we get to a point where we can dynamically select and purchase the best individual screens to target the most prime audience, we will be able to serve the most contextually relevant messages, all in real-time. That is programmatic OOH. n
Bruce Burgess is group managing director of Posterscope.