Programmatic Out of Home: An Easy Way for Brands to Optimize Their OOH Buys

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I recently got a chance to catch up with a colleague of mine, Daniel Mak, Director of Agency Partnerships at Novus Media, an independent media planning and buying agency. We were talking about a recent Out of Home (OOH) campaign our companies collaborated on for a national grocery chain that leveraged the power of programmatic OOH. His perspectives on the value to brands of programmatic OOH were compelling and illuminating, so I am summarizing some of the key takeaways here so that others can benefit.

Wade Rifkin: I've heard you say before that programmatic is the future of OOH. Why do you think it's a step-change kind of innovation for this enduring medium?

Daniel Mak: Well, first you can easily and quickly turn a programmatic campaign on and off. In this instance, our client needed the ability to make quick changes like in other digital media. Now we can deliver to our client those same benefits and flexibility with the significant reach, scale and impact of OOH.

Second, programmatic is all about speed and ease of execution. It gives you the ability to plan and execute a campaign in a flash. Given how the media landscape has changed, many brands are executing their buys closer to launch date. So pDOOH allows for real-time activation of a campaign and on-the-fly creative changes.

In short, programmatic OOH helps you get into, and respond to, the market faster. And that's huge.

On the technical side, OOH had already done so much work on its digital transformation with really refined planning, targeting and attribution capabilities that give brands a true measure of the ROI of their campaign spend. I'm talking all the many innovations like Clear Channel Outdoor's RADAR suite of solutions. It was this digital transformation that opened the true possibilities for programmatic OOH.

Now marketers can buy the impressions they want, when they want them and where they want them in an easy, automated way. While it's still a one-to-many channel, it's much more targeted than ever before. You can be a media buyer in Canada and purchase inventory in America on behalf of a European client. It's that easy.

Rifkin: What's the biggest stumbling block when it comes to brand adoption of programmatic OOH?

Mak: Without a doubt, the biggest obstacle is that lots of people confuse programmatic OOH with some of the problems they associated with programmatic in the online space when it started years ago. Back then, programmatic online began as a way to buy discounted, remnant online inventory.

I can't say it often or loud enough -- programmatic OOH is about premium inventory -- high-quality at premium locations. This isn't about sluffing off unwanted inventory. It's about accessing the best of OOH with all the latest technical know-how that we have to make the entire process easier and more efficient.

Rifkin: Can you share how this works in practice? Is there an example of a recent campaign that used programmatic OOH?

Mak: Well, a great example is a national grocery store chain that we worked with this past winter. They're a good example in part because they were already long-time buyers of OOH, and despite that, had the same misgivings I just mentioned about programmatic OOH. They came to us for a brand relaunch, but since their business was heavily reliant on location-based, local promotions, they ended up deciding that programmatic was the right fit.

We created a plan that would give them the best chance at covering all their stores in 11 U.S. markets that included Atlanta, Washington, Charlotte, Baltimore and New York -- all very different environments and markets. Because the business was promo heavy, we ran promotions Wednesday through Saturday, and then on Sunday we switched them all to more brand awareness creative through Tuesday.

Rifkin: What were the deciding factors for the grocer? What convinced them to go with programmatic OOH?

Mak: There were really two main factors. The first is the ease and flexibility. Before programmatic OOH you'd need multiple vendors involved to cover all of the locations and reach the same audiences. But now you can get everything easily. Even with so much changing creative it was easy to manage. You can put up the creative and schedule it -- in an instant.

And this ties to the second biggest factor. Every measurable dollar spent counts and buying efficiencies matter.Why? Well, in this case, the grocer was able to run their creative on dozens of individual units in Atlanta over an eight-week period with specific audience targeting in mind. Had they done this without programmatic, they might have spent their whole campaign budget just in this one geographic area on a small handful of site-specific units. Instead, their campaign was carried on many different assets, maximizing the power of their spend since the campaign was only up on inventory at the optimal times to reach these target audiences. So, it can jump around. Plus,with visualization tools like CCO's RADARView, marketers can now see which assets are going to carry their creative and when.

That's powerful, and I think marketers are going to increasingly start to see the light when it comes to programmatic OOH.

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