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Why Google wants a slice of the out-of-home pie

25 Sep 2018  |  Emily Coe 
Why Google wants a slice of the out-of-home pie

From dynamic digital creative to the powerful use of data, Google could accelerate the UK's out-of-home sector, writes Emily Coe

Out of home recently emerged as the hot new ad format, as Google announced it’s in talks in Germany to push into the sector - potentially seeing expansion into the UK. The news is of course exciting for agencies, advertisers and the OOH specialists themselves. This channel is thriving - its audience is growing, it’s more connected, data-driven and digital. Therefore, it is becoming a force to be reckoned with in comparison to its industry counterparts. The newfound capabilities that accompany this are growing its value to advertisers exponentially.

Google’s data and expertise in programmatic applied to this channel can only help accelerate this already rapid pace of change. However, is it really a shock they want a piece of the OOH pie when the industry is already making strides?


Using location data scraped from mobile ad-exchanges, apps, and service providers, to better understand people and places and in turn, inform where we place our OOH ads and the messages we surface on them - is nothing new. The OOH media owner Exterion uses Telefonica data to audience profile London Underground stations and journey patterns.

Applications such as Spotify and Twitter enable us to understand hotspots for different behaviours and passion points, for example, finding gamers based on keywords and key accounts followed or where the most chilled areas of the country are based on lowest beats per minute. OOH specialist, Posterscope, has a unique partnership with EE which enables them to understand mobile web and app usage by location.

It’s also possible to use this data to create bespoke audience taxonomies, as we would in digital, and use it to power real world as well as our virtual world advertising placements. SDK providers and mobile ad-exchanges enable us to understand audience movement across physical spaces and define OOH locations, which over-index for ‘in-market’ data signals, for example, visits to bricks and mortar stockists.

Additionally, geo-location data used to inform OOH is aggregated and anonymised. This data is used to skew the distribution of campaigns into more relevant spaces based on the campaign KPIs. The goal is to increase effectiveness through increased relevancy and not to seek one on one communication – something the public doesn’t want to experience from a channel that’s magic lies in the fact it’s collectively and passively consumed by the many in the trusted public space.

Time and time again data proves its value by increasing OOH effectiveness across all metrics. Smart OOH planners are leveraging this data to create competitive advantage for advertisers.


Also very much established, but often massively under-utilised, is the ability to activate creative on DOOH dynamically. Using real-time and predictive triggers to ensure the most relevant ad is surfaced to the right people, in the right place, at the right time. The explosion of Digital OOH (DOOH) screens, particularly on the high street, give advertisers more choice than ever before in where and when their ad is placed.

Location-specific copy for pubs, for example, telling people where their nearest pub is and surfacing the most relevant brand for that pub type (i.e. gastro pub vs. ‘the local’) and for the context in which the ad is viewed – such as showing Bulmers when the temperature is over 19 degrees, is a great example.

This World Cup saw advertisers like Heinz and Lidl use in match events to drive their DOOH creative – creating a relevancy on the street which further cemented their association and boosted their cultural kudos.

New technologies combined with excellent creative are creating powerful campaigns on our streets that deliver results. This, combined with its appealing brand safety makes OOH a tempting proposition for big names like Google.

The missing pieces in OOH’s “programmatic” journey are two-fold. Firstly, a consistent cross-market trading model which enables advertisers to buy the DOOH locations and audiences they want, when they want them, in real-time and at a CPT which stacks up.

This is a challenge for a fixed inventory, fixed overheads media with legacy trading models and one to many vs. one to one, survey based audience delivery. Significant technical progress is being made by the industry - impression based buys are increasingly commonplace, new entrants such as JCDecaux’s VIOOH are helping set the pace of change but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Secondly, a robust feedback loop which enables advertisers to optimise based on results and quantify the value of a DOOH CPT against their KPIs.

If Google can help the industry accelerate progress in these two areas, then we really will be moving into an exciting new world for OOH and for advertisers.

Emily Coe, head of out of home, Publicis Media

Mediatel operate two essential services for the OOH industry. SPACE is a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart and is the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of inventory in the UK. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution that enables easy integration of Route audience data into client's systems. See for more information.

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