Analysis: Google's programmatic outdoor advertising plans

24 Aug 2018  |  Newsline Staff 
Analysis: Google's programmatic outdoor advertising plans

According to German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche, Google are in the process of entering the out-of-home (OOH) programmatic advertising space in Germany, with plans to later expand to the US and UK.

Although Google officially denies the report, the company has previously experimented with programmatic ad buying platforms for OOH ads using Double Click (now GoogleAds) - so any renewed interest is significant.

Here, experts weigh in on the news and its implications for the advertising industry.

Mungo Knott, director of insight and innovation, Primesight

Out-of-home is, and always has been, a powerful builder of brands and business through its ability to generate public fame for the products it brings to our attention across our towns and cities. Digital screens have added flexibility of access to OOH and the opportunity to supercharge impact with contextual creative.

Then comes data. Mobile location data, however, has specifically proved tricky to apply to OOH for reasons which are well explained in a view from Route (the OOH audience research JIC).

Enter Google, a dominant ad platform and leading automator of transactions. Whilst their strength in individual personalisation is not commercially appropriate for a one-to-many communication platform, the agility of data application across trends, transactions and on-line-off-line attribution is clearly an opportunity.

OOH is well placed to become an increasingly valuable and trusted communications platform. Whether through machine learning or just the power of the human brain, Google has activated an interesting opportunity to integrate with OOH.

Jodie Stranger, chief executive and president of global network clients, EMEA, Starcom UK Group

Google moving into the out-of-home world is extremely exciting. OOH is a channel that's thriving - the audience is growing, it's more connected, data-driven and more digital than ever before. The newfound capabilities that accompany this move are growing its value exponentially for advertisers. Google's data and expertise in programmatic applied to OOH can only help accelerate this already rapid pace of change.

While the industry has made a lot of progress with respect to data-driven decisioning, automation and dynamic ad-serving, OOH's "programmatic" journey is still in its relative infancy. The two critical areas for development lie in its transition from panel led to an audience led trading model and the creation of a robust feedback loop which enables advertisers to optimise based on results. 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.

Liz Duff, head of media and investment, Total Media

In the UK, advertisers are already familiar with using mobile data to make their OOH placements more targeted, and their messaging more relevant through dynamic creative, so at first glance the potential entry of Google into the OOH ecosystem isn't a game changer.

However, when you start to think about the opportunities this opens up for cross-device tracking and attribution, the proposition becomes far more interesting. Although advertisers are well aware of the effectiveness of OOH advertising, it has proved difficult to measure its exact contribution through performance models such as econometrics. With the wealth of audience and behavioural data that Google has on its audiences cross-platform, this challenge could be overcome.

The area where I could advise caution is the level of targeting that the data is used for, taking into account the constraints of GDPR and ePrivacy regulations and the broadcast nature of the OOH medium. Consumers are used to personalisation in the digital world, but I don't think we should be lured into the trap of turning OOH into a real-life version of The Minority Report.

Dino Myers-Lamptey, UK managing director, MullenLowe Mediahub

A move like this feels like it's been bubbling under for years. In a world where data fuels our decision making, Google's access to personal data is pivotal to this tie up.

On the face of it, the industry will get very excited about this closing loop on their ecosystem. Strategists and planners will have deeper access to more data points, and more precise audience profiling. Creatives will have greater creative potential for clever hacks. Buyers will benefit from real time optimisations, rather than the current 'buy and hope' model we often see. And data and measurement teams will see better attribution modelling and causal analysis. There are downsides, however.

Naysayers decrying an imminent march towards algorithms replacing buyers, loss of market competition, and Google's hegemony increasing even further should be aware that there is a greater threat to the industry: pervasive, short-termism mentality.

Whilst Google moving into programmatic OOH would combine greater precision of digital with the scale and context of OOH, we must remember that 'new' does not always equate to 'better'. And nor does optimising to the nth degree. Sometimes broad, universal and populist should be the order of the day.

Scott Curtis, head of digital and innovation, Spark Foundry

Google's move into out of home advertising shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody as it's a natural progression to link their wealth of digital data with the physical world. OOH plus mobile is a combination that works so well given mobile's ability to link data to a location. What makes this news so interesting is that Google have probably the biggest data set that it's possible to do this with.

What this should mean for Germany, and then the rest of the world, is that everyone wins because advertising will be better. Brands will be able to avoid wastage and get closer to the audiences they actually want to speak to, and consumers will be exposed to a greater proportion of advertising that is more relevant and useful to them.

At the end of the day, that's what advertising is all about, not annoyingly spamming ads out, but to use the available data to identify the right person that will find utility or entertainment from a brand's message.

Dan Larden, strategic partnerships director, global, Infectious Media

With the investment Google can bring to DOOH infrastructure, its involvement marks a big step forward. By using the technology it has built across the programmatic supply chain, there are a number of positive ways it can disrupt the sector.

Firstly, with its sell side technology Google can help media owners increase revenues through investing in infrastructure and automated supply technology. This means more publishers connected to the internet, helping real time to become the dominant DOOH buying method.

Secondly, with its buy side technology Google can bring together DOOH access points and add clever targeting and measurement tech. This will help brands justify more investment in the medium.

Lastly, the mooted Google acquisition of a media owner like Exterion would accelerate technical development, bringing an interesting new offer to DOOH. Buying DOOH programmatically is becoming feasible, we are right now working on our first client campaign.

Google's move into DOOH will hopefully mean a more connected and efficient media buying opportunity for advertisers, whilst shining a light on some outdated buying practices and models.

Nick Beck, CEO, Tug

The news that Google is getting into the OOH space based on them being able to 'close the loop', properly track the impact of OOH and enrich the data that powers it, is of significant interest for a number of reasons. Firstly, it means that there will finally be the ability to bring an actual 'programmatic' buying power to OOH, as opposed to purely dynamic ad insertion.

However, the impact of it will depend almost entirely on whether they are the media owner & operator or just a partner to existing infrastructure. If they go for the former - it's likely that they'll just be expanding their walled garden, which has limited benefits to big-spending OOH advertisers. The real opportunities exist where Google can bring their data & technology to an already mature marketplace to help advertisers become truly omnichannel.

Also, while this is interesting, Google has been slow to market with their traditional media offerings (audio, tv etc) so far. By the time they get to this, the tech may have already advanced beyond what they're bringing to the table now.

Carl Erik Kjærsgaard, CEO & co-founder, Blackwood Seven

Sixteen years on from the release of Minority Report, (but 36 years before the events of the movie) OOH programmatic advertising is now a reality. While the go-to references usually paint dystopian depictions of this future - the reality is this is a very positive progression for advertising.

As developments in our capacity to deal with data and develop smart technologies continue to flourish, brands and marketers are empowered to embrace marketing strategies that are truly real-time in nature. Advertising channels like this do not fit into a media plan devised months in advance - they need to be plugged in to dynamic, intelligent AI systems.

Google's development of programmatic OOH advertising does raise an interesting question for our current ecosystem: will advertisers move to inhouse their digital buying and operate directly? How will media agencies ensure they are still required as part of the process? Time will tell.

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