How Programmatic OOH Will Finally Take Center Stage in a Post-COVID World

Marc Bartholomew, VP and head of digital, Posterscope, discusses how COVID-19 has exposed much-needed changes to the out-of-home (OOH) industry and why Programmatic trading should be the agent for change – offering advertisers the comfort and security that other digital channels can offer.

For some time, there has been much chatter and a lot of noise around programmatic trading in the OOH advertising industry. Experts predicted that 2020 would be the breakthrough year. Programmatic tech platforms had a greater presence than ever before at OOH industry conferences. Strong signs suggesting the industry was prepared to break away from its legacy trading model were abundant.

Then COVID-19 came along, impacting OOH as it has no other media channel, with the exception of cinema. With 97% of the U.S. population under stay-at-home orders, proving the value of OOH became a dubious proposition. Advertisers scrambled to cancel, postpone or shift dollars into “at-home” formats such as Connected TV and Digital Video, leaving agencies with large, Q2-shaped holes in revenue and halting whatever momentum programmatic buying might have been enjoying.

Learn More: B2B Programmatic Marketing Lessons in the COVID-19 Era

The Adoption of Programmatic

But here’s the harsh reality: the adoption of programmatic trading in OOH had been slow, at best, even during the halcyon, pre-pandemic days. For any number of reasons, the industry has continued to wrestle with fully taking the leap, perhaps conscious of mistakes made in the digital space.

Today, brands are cautiously beginning to envision a post-COVID world, or at least the beginnings of one. What they will likely want on the other side of quarantines and stay-at-home orders is a media buying environment that offers more flexibility and is accommodating to a world landscape that can change in an instant.

Why Programmatic OOH is a Must

And because of this, there could never be a better time to fully embrace programmatic OOH. Here’s why:
Programmatic buying adds the element of agility and speed – characteristics not often associated with OOH. It gives brands the ability to activate campaigns, switch them on and off or optimize in real time, as required or dictated by changes in the environment.

Through Private Marketplace deals, advertisers have access to all available digital OOH inventory and decide where and when to bid. They can choose, at a moment’s notice, to pause the bidding of impressions without penalty, eliminating the 60-day cancellation windows and giving advertisers the comfort and protection they will need and want in order to confidently resume spending when OOH foot traffic improves.

Learn More: How Will COVID-19 Impact Advertising & Subscription Video on Demand in 2020?

Programmatic helps elevate measurement and attribution in OOH as well. With marketing budgets to be under more scrutiny than usual in 2020 and beyond, the requirement to demonstrate impact for any media buy will be more crucial than ever. Supply-side platform owners can provide advertisers with mobile device IDs exposed to the OOH campaign, which can be tracked and linked to consumer actions such as the visiting of a store’s physical location or online presence or engaging in online conversations about the brand. These are hard measurement metrics not traditionally associated with OOH.

Finally, programmatic lets advertisers optimize their creative message by audience, location and time of day in real time using real-world data to deliver dynamic, relevant, hyperlocal content to digital screens across multiple vendors and environments.

The global effects of COVID-19 will be long lasting in so many ways, impacting every industry imaginable. As brands begin to set their sights beyond these grim times, reverting to business as usual is simply not an option for them. It shouldn’t be for the OOH industry either. There is a natural intersection between what OOH advertisers will want and what programmatic OOH buying can offer. For the OOH industry, this is the light at the end of the tunnel.