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OOH can thrive thanks to adtech forerunners

17 Aug 2020  |  Jon Block 
OOH can thrive thanks to adtech forerunners

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Jon Block, chief product officer at VIOOH, outlines which elements of adtech digital OOH has copied, which it is rejecting, and which it is keeping its eye on for future use

They say that “plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery”. Well, flattery, in its sincerest form, is definitely one of my stronger skills. It got me through school. It got me through university too (please don’t run my old dissertation through Turnitin!). And now, four months into joining the OOH industry, I’m putting this skill to good use again.

OOH may be in the middle of evolving into a digital, audience-addressable and programmatic channel. But with my years of experience in other ad tech mediums, I confess to having a not-so secret weapon at my disposal in my new role at VIOOH - namely a plethora of adtech forerunners who have developed the tech, learnt the lessons and set the benchmarks to which OOH can and should pay heed.

Today, I want to pay tribute to digital adtech, an industry that’s nurtured and inspired me and is now allowing me to hit the ground running. Here, I wish to publicly declare which elements OOH has plagiarised, those we are rejecting, and those we’ll keep an eye on for possible use at a later date.

We’ll have a bit of that, thank you

Consolidated tech stacks - Spotting your supplier’s logo in the ad tech LUMAscape used to be a form of modern day Where’s Wally for media execs (Where’s Waldo for our US colleagues!). OOH is lucky that we don't have to go through the same explosive growth in third parties that the digital display space has experienced. The industry has already realised that consolidated functionality is actually a good thing and something that we want immediately.

Transparency - Premium OOH media owners have always focused on compliance and accountability, and this won’t change with the transition to digital and programmatic technologies. We have the ability to focus on transparency by design and make sure we build all the necessary features so brands know exactly how their money is being spent.

Standardisation - As programmatic OOH is still a relatively new trading model, standardisation is also relatively new but the more complex and fragmented an industry becomes, the more important it is to build common global standards and frameworks.

Contextual targeting - In OOH, context is king. When someone sees an OOH ad, broadly speaking we know where they are and what they’re doing, whether that’s travelling, shopping, socialising or whatever people used to do in the great outdoors pre-Covid.

Dynamic creative - Geographical context is made even more powerful by the dynamic real-world context, be it weather, audiences, or breaking news. ProgOOH enables buyers to run ads tailored to the environment and tailor the content itself, based on these triggers.

Real-time audience measurement - Most people walk around today with a multi-functional interactive behavioural tracking device glued to their hands. (i.e. a smart phone). With such a big shift in historic behaviour patterns, this real-time audience density data puts brands in a much stronger position to respond.

Dual-screening - Already a big thing in TV advertising, dual-screening is equally powerful in OOH. Mobile represents an additional personalised channel in an advanced omni-channel advertising campaign - most importantly it provides a return path for OOH.

Mobile-based attribution modelling - Attribution in OOH used to be a choice between large econometric studies or to follow individual consumers with a clipboard. Today, mobile data gives advertisers unique insight into attribution and advertising effectiveness.

Never far from our attention

Privacy….for now - As a broadcast medium, OOH hasn’t been subjected to concerns around privacy and invasive targeting. But the data landscape is evolving rapidly and there are growing means by which sellers and buyers can target audiences using deterministic data. As this area develops we need to make sure we avoid the OOH equivalent of chasing people around the internet with ads for something embarrassing they bought online three weeks ago.

Sequential targeting - With the ongoing technological developments we’re seeing around mobile, the industry is already in a position to sequentially target audiences based on real-time deterministic data. This can be a powerful trick in the marketer’s toolbox, but we need to do it right. There is a balance to be struck between effective and creepy...

Things OOH doesn’t have to worry about

Non-human traffic - Display and video advertising have been victim to billions of dollars-worth of fraudulent traffic every year. Luckily this isn’t an issue that applies to premium DOOH (or at least whilst android/simulant technology remains the stuff of sci-fi films!). OOH will continue to be built based on the concepts of compliant and audited proof of play and measurement by independent third parties.

Viewability - I’m not sure what the OOH equivalent is here. Perhaps below-the fold equates to a large tree growing in front of a roadside billboard? And auto-play video with sound off is a dense fog rolling off the Hudson in downtown Manhattan obscuring the street frames?

Brand safety - Not only are premium OOH locations inherently brand safe but as a broadcast medium all ads are approved by the media owner. When bought programmatically, creative that doesn’t comply with location restrictions - such as those near schools - are automatically scheduled to alternative screens.

Ad blocking - One of the joys of OOH is that clever consumers cannot find ways to bypass ads. Or at least not until we invent better augmented reality glasses.

Personalised 1-to-1 targeting - For the most part this is only really a concept that works in Tom Cruise sci-fi movies. Luckily GDPR was specifically created with this dystopian sci-fi future in mind (or that’s what I’m telling myself).

Snooping - Does anyone still believe it’s a coincidence every time a brand they’ve mentioned in conversation serves them an ad? If we’re completely honest, OOH could probably develop the tech to snoop on conversations, but is that really where we want to go? No.

For years OOH has been quietly perfecting its art and enhancing its offering, while numerous other advertising mediums battled the challenges that come with being a trailblazer.

So thank you digital display, programmatic, mobile and addressable TV - we couldn’t have done it without you.


Jon Block is chief product officer at VIOOH


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 mediatel.co.uk for more information.

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