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Data in out-of-home doesn't just have to mean programmatic

17 Jul 2018  |  Conrad Poulson 
Data in out-of-home doesn't just have to mean programmatic

Even ‘dumb’ frames can be dragged in to the 21st century through the considered application of data, writes Conrad Poulson

We’ve certainly seen some differences in opinion on Mediatel in recent months as the debate over the future of Out-of-Home puts the shift to programmatic under the microscope. There’s little doubt this technology has an important role to play in how this segment develops, JCDecaux’s recently announced VIOOH platform represents a tremendous step forward towards bringing Digital-Out-Of-Home into a joined up programmatic ecosystem.

CMOs now expect data to inform every investment decision they make - in real time and across all media segments, so my take is that programmatic can only be a good thing. However, any opinions on the qualities, or otherwise, of programmatic are something of a moot point for the half of UK outdoor sites yet to go digital.

I have little doubt that DOOH and programmatic will become ubiquitous in metropolitan areas over time. However, the use case for a frame at a well-used suburban bus stop is going to be very different to a 64-sheet billboard beside a motorway. As such, upgrading legacy poster sites isn’t always going to be worth the (not insignificant) investment.

One of the key strengths of OOH lies in its capacity to reach large numbers of people. However, the challenge lies in qualifying those audiences. We can make semi-informed assumptions about who they are likely to be be, but until all sites become ‘smart’ there is still an element of doubt. This means offline measurement and attribution at scale continue to be a chink in the armour for media buyers and strategists.

This is equally frustrating for the seller, especially in the context of the post-GDPR market. Recent research suggests upwards of 40% of EU web users are choosing not to share their online data. ‘Wait and see’ seems to be the safest approach for many advertisers as they get to grips with the implications of consent.

This means the needle is shifting back towards brand-led formats that are perceived to be less ‘risky’ - presenting a clear opportunity to the OOH sector.

In essence it is, or should be, time for the outdoor sector to have its cake and eat it. OOH can increasingly employ programmatic, but can equally offer a pure branding opportunity divorced from any risk associated with connected formats. However, planners still need tangible evidence they are reaching the right audience.

That said, transitioning to an analytics-led OOH strategy doesn’t necessarily have to use programmatic. Even ‘dumb’ frames can be dragged in to the 21st century through the considered application of data.

Our own research suggests both sellers and buyers alike are missing a significant targeting opportunity. Segmenting consumers into interest-led groups, as defined by anonymised geo-behavioural activity, can reveal some surprising insights. Working with this methodology, we discovered certain sites are undervalued in relation to their value to specific audiences.

Taking London as a representative global city with numerous OOH sites, we honed in on people who had demonstrated an interest in particular verticals over a three-month period - in this case 10,000 ‘culture vultures’ and the same number of health and fitness fans.

We then overlaid their movements on a map of outdoor sites to identify which ones would offer the best value based on an effectiveness index that balances visibility with size and pricing.

We might assume – and there’s ‘that’ word again - the optimum sites to reach the culture vultures would be in and around Theatreland. However, reaching the most eyeballs doesn’t necessarily mean they belong to the right people! Rather than investing in a premium site in the West End, it transpired that buyers would likely derive much greater value by reallocating budget to multiple sites outside of central London.

We identified the highest concentrations of culture vultures could be found in East London, and at the same time the highest concentrations of gym goers were found in Croydon and other suburban areas.

These findings suggest media owners would benefit from applying data to their entire inventory to identify the prime sites for specific audiences on a much more granular level. An analytics-led approach would empower them to integrate this insight into their sales structures to offer more impactful, tailored packages - yet without the layers of complexity inherent in the programmatic ecosystem.

Transparency is key to CMOs looking for an answer to the online to offline conundrum. While programmatic may be the right option for highly targeted DOOH campaigns, it isn’t yet a cure-all. This doesn’t mean data has any less of a role to play in the evolution of the out-of-home sector as a whole, we just need to think creatively about how we employ it.

Conrad Poulson is CEO, Huq Inc

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22 May 2020 

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