Digital Out-of-Home Comes of Age

This month, Verizon Media announced the availability of digital out-of-home (DOOH) inventory in its demand-side platform (DSP), offering advertisers the full omnichannel experience by providing access to out-of-home screens within a programmatic exchange. Last year, the DSP integrated connected TV (CTV) and programmatic audio. The DOOH screens include transit shelters, roadside boards, airports, gyms, bars, elevators and checkout screens at stores.

Data-driven targeting allows advertisers to reach a specific audience by location, day part, demographics, interest, and changing factors like weather. In the OOH space, factors like weather can’t be overlooked. Near-real-time data and programmatic placement make it possible for more intelligent, adaptable, personalized messaging – not just with customizable one-to-one communications in a digital video ad or email, but also with larger groups within a particular radius.

Ran Ben-Yair, CEO and Co-Founder of Ubimo, which provides location-based first- and third-party data in the OOH space, told me, “Weather can absolutely be factored into the ad buying process, particularly in the programmatic digital out-of-home space. This makes it especially appealing because you are able to control both the creatives being served and the audience targeting in real time.”

For a career OOH professional like Todd Palatnek – he now serves as OOH Business Lead for navigation app Waze – the cross-channel data provided by, in the case of Waze, mobile advertising, demonstrates the lift of a supplementary channel while also providing a second screen to confirm the effectiveness of a campaign’s creative.

“It’s helpful from a creative standpoint to look at the performance of creative through user engagement on the app,” Palatnek said.

As a Google subsidiary, Waze announced its integration in the Display & Video 360 exchange (also referred to as Google Marketing Platform), and Palatnek is taking the cross-channel message to brands and agencies around “how to build successful campaigns, integrate with other channels, and build out into different verticals.”

With advertisers intent on tying performance to all of their buys, the data coming in from mobile is used to convincingly demonstrate lift. The numbers provided by the Waze team show lift for actual store visits, broken down by categories. For fuel, an ad on Waze boosts visits to a particular location by 35 percent; for quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and retail, there’s a 36 and 38 percent lift, respectively.

Mobile’s dynamic interplay with OOH is also a focus for New York-based OUTFRONT Media. They report a 48 percent lift for a mobile ad when combined with OOH. With screens, or “surfaces,” tunneling deep into the transit systems of major markets (but also on busy above-ground perches, tens of thousands of total screens everywhere, in New York alone), they have traffic data to back up the characteristics of their audiences, through, for instance, a partnership with New York’s MTA.

Where Todd Palatnek speaks of ads on the Waze app “mirroring” the ads out there in the OOH landscape, OUTFRONT Media’s Chief Commercial Officer Andy Sriubas insists that the ads on OOH screens are “dynamic enough to engender all the attributes of a mobile phone.” To be relevant to buyers, the inventory must also be made available through a similar “front-end system” with an experience that provides the same audience calculation and other features that “changes the conversation that [OUTFRONT Media’s] salespeople are having with marketers.” For Sriubas, it isn’t just about having the precision of one-to-one messaging, but realizing that there is also “huge value in one-to-many.” One of the big stories with the influx of data is “telling a relative value story,” Sriubas said. Previously, “full credit was given to the last click,” but now marketers can provide an intelligent “multitouch attribution.” Sriubas added, “As we’re just now evolving, we see how the value of out-of-home relates to everything else to buy, which helps us participate in the larger ecosystem.”

Ubimo’s Ran Ben-Yair said, “The most exciting advances in DOOH I see are in programmatic, with more exchanges making more inventory available. This is opening up opportunities to tap into new revenue sources, and to bring DOOH to the larger media-mix table. This, along with the ability to now use data in the planning and targeting phase of the programmatic flow, will help establish the huge impact and ROI of DOOH.”

Waze’s Todd Palatnek suggested something similar in his experience with this emerging programmatic approach to DOOH. “Everybody’s talking about connecting TV viewers to out-of-home, trying to connect all those dots. This is where the industry is trying to go, from online to offline. Everyone is trying to connect the dots. It’s interesting to see how everything progresses in the coming years.” But according to Palatnek the industry is, as of now, still at the very beginning of this journey. With the technology accelerating, the challenges appear to be largely cultural, within organizations.

“An obstacle we have to confront,” Ben-Yair explained, “is that OOH teams are often separate from broader digital marketing teams, in regards to budget breakdowns and port-campaign analysis. However, with audience-based buys and the digitalization of OOH — as in, the ability to understand and analyze a physical property with digital data — I believe we will continue to see OOH and DOOH take a larger share of the market, and prove its value in the larger omnichannel strategy.”

With this larger, connected omnichannel offering, speed will also play a significant role in offering flexibility in ad campaigns. Jeff Lucas, Head of North American Sales and Global Client Solutions at Verizon Media points to the spread of 5G Ultra Wideband. Currently turned on, as of this month, in select areas of Minneapolis and Chicago, the service will expand out to 30 cities by the end of the year.

“Programmatic is the mechanism for purchasing and buying, and optimizing campaigns, and it’s getting better as more and more products come through the pipeline,” Lucas told me. “It’s very exciting because digital out-of-home is a huge business, estimated at over $30 billion per year.”

He added that the integration of DOOH into programmatic, and especially with data coming in at 5G speeds, advertisers and marketers will be working together in real-time to achieves campaign goals.

“Sitting down with advertisers,” Lucas explained, “I ask, ‘What are you trying to achieve?’ And not just for advertising, but as a business goal. If I start there, and I’m listening rather than pitching, I can offer the best products based on my experience for what you’re trying to sell.”

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