Automation Trend To Include OOH?

Matt Seiler, CEO of IPG Mediabrands, has been banging the automation drum for some time. Seeing the benefits of using technology and data, he proposes to automate 50% of all media investment by the end of 2015. The important thing to note here is the “all media” bit – not just digital. So where does this leave OOH?

I believe that audience delivery is the fundamental goal of media advertising. Media planners and traders are paid to deliver a message to the correct people at the right time as efficiently as possible. Media can be paid-for (via agencies), earned (via brand behaviour) or in some cases owned. Quite what an advertiser conveys to a particular audience to engage them (once a media placement has been purchased and delivered) really depends upon the particular communications objective of the brand. 

The Changing Face Of Audience Delivery In OOH

As with all media channels, audience delivery is at the heart of what we do in OOH.  Yet historically it has been the simple by-product of purchasing space on panels – or “sheetage” in our jargon. The purchase of space on one or more OOH location delivers an advertiser a relevant share of that posters total audience, a certain amount of times.  We’ve always known that audience delivery is best delivered across the whole OOH spectrum but have struggled proving it outside of ads on bus stops or billboards on the roadside. The various audience measurement tools at our disposal (historically created by overly optimistic media owners) did not blend well to give an overall audience solution. As OOH planners we had to rely on applying “educated guesses” to our media schedules.

This clearly isn’t the case anymore. I’ve identified two catalysts that have fundamentally changed the industry’s approach to audience planning:

  1. Route  – The OOH audience measurement and delivery system, that cost a staggering £19m to develop, arrived into the industry in February 2013. It was late, incomplete and the user interface was slow and problematic. In its current form it is still difficult to use and very few people know how to use the tool – not ideal for a £1 billion industry. However the data under the rusty bonnet is excellent and powerful. When harnessed properly we see much better planning, with one clear benefit the ability to layer different environments to understand the combined effect on audience delivery. It’s Route, along with advancement in operation technology, which will help make automation a reality in OOH.
  2. Digitalisation – With an ever increasing digital OOH footprint and over £50 million of media owner investment this year, audience planning has got more sophisticated as we’re able to optimise by day-part. Dynamic, re-active and tactical campaigns are now feasible and it’s this increase in screens that has driven recent programmatic conversations.

So What Comes Next?

The key players in the OOH market know they must change but this is a time when each constituent part is working out its next steps. The answers are not always clear, nor are they easy. What were once the stable foundations to build OOH planning schedules are being eroded and viewed as antiquated as the whole media industry embraces big changes. An era is definitely coming to an end as OOH must modernise or be left behind. 

I predict that within the next 2-3 years our market place will have altered substantially in three areas:

  • Data: Better and more diverse audience data, and the ability to instantly access it via increasingly intelligent platforms, will improve planning decisions. Better data will improve our assessment of campaign effectiveness. A good example of this is JCDecaux’s Tesco SmartScreen network using ClubCard data from Dunnhumby to optimise campaign performance.
  • Technology: Harnessing the latest technology advancements, audience delivery tools will improve and will be at the heart of trading interaction. However the relationship between media sellers and buyers over the role of audience delivery is still highly uncertain.
  • Automation: The above two points will lead to a good proportion – but not all – of the OOH industry being audience optimised via automated systems.

A Rewarding Future For OOH

The OOH market is in a time of change. Audience delivery is at the heart of the transformation – but there are currently a lot more questions than answers. Some excellent minds are working on improving OOH and most agree that it’s the right time to debate and research. Rapport is at the heart of the debate and we are relishing it. We predict a very exciting and rewarding future for OOH. 

Paul McCormack, Business Director

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