The Digital Out-of-Home Industry Is Reaching a Programmatic Tipping Point, Execs Say

Standard-setting and better targeting were big themes at a trade conference this week

Digital billboards are getting more targeted. Getty Images

Digital advertising is bleeding into the physical world in more ways than ever before, but nascent out-of-home ad technology still has a ways to go before it reaches it’s true potential.

That was the sense among marketers, startup execs and old-guard OOH media vendors at the Digital Place Based Advertising Association’s Video Everywhere Summit this week, among displays touting emotion-tracking facial recognition tech, targeted billboards and other emerging tech that is transforming the space.

Emarketer estimates that digital currently accounts for about 23 percent of all OOH spending, but its share is projected to continue growing steadily in the next few years. While automation of the sales process is still in its infancy, the portion of that money that goes to OOH media sold programmatically is also expected to inch upward.

But as that happens, the industry will have to grapple with how to standardize attribution metrics, consolidate disparate marketplaces and grapple with consumer privacy concerns, industry professionals say.

Adweek spoke with five digital OOH execs about their predictions for the space in the next few years. Here’s what they said:

Gilad Amitai, COO and co-founder at Ubimo

“Everybody understands today that there’s been a huge mindset shift and people are coming from a digital perspective. What we are seeing that’s been really interesting in the last year or so and what will happen even more aggressively in the next year is that many companies will allow out-of-home inventory to be indexed versus digital data.

This will allow companies that are familiar with planning and activating in a digital way to be active in an out-of home way. So today, for example, we have clients that are bringing their own first-party data and using movement and location data to index out-of-home. So this is a major trend that is happening connecting the digital and physical world.

The second trend is that more and more, companies are enabling their inventory to be available programatically. And basically every major supplier is now operating their own SSP [supply-side platform] kind of exchange. By merging those together, we’re going to start to see a significant gross—I’m not sure the gross will happen in 2019, maybe 2020, but the tipping point is happening as we speak.”

Alfred Gonzales-Cuzan, Innovation Manager at AdMobilize

“Analytics and having real-time data on the asset itself are going to be the biggest things. Right now, it’s like a tipping point. I mean we’re a company that does that. We provide the data: face detection, counting vehicles, getting people by demographics, things like that. But having that real data so you know X amount of people saw an asset—all their demographics like age, gender, emotion and then being able to trigger advertisements for them and have actual accountability for the ads we see.”

Ian Bowman-Henderson, Marketing Director at DoMedia

“We’re going to see more consolidation and collaboration within the industry. If you’re talking about digital out of home, you’re talking about a small subset of all out-of-home media, and if you’re talking about ones that are running a specific ad platform, you’re talking about a subset of a subset.

And if inventory saturation is that low, can you really claim to have made a programmatic media buy? If you’re selecting the best of 50 things and not the best of 10,000 things? So in order for the industry to really grow and fulfill it’s promise and provide a really compelling offering to the demand side, I think you’re going to see a lot of consolidation or at least collaboration among programmatic SSPs.”

Jay Hutton, CEO at Vsblty

“Accountability, attribution, auditability—which I guess is a subset of accountability. And then the fourth thing would be mobile integration.

It’s about friendly coopetition. For this to work, this community needs to align under a certain set of standards, and we’re some distance from that. I think everybody who’s enlightened is talking that way right now. If I say an impression count is X and my competitor says it’s Y, then all we do is confuse the marketplace. No standards exist, frankly—none that are really acceptable for digital out-of-home measurement or attribution.

An example of attribution that’s relevant in the space is I’ve got a Times Square promotion going for the new Toyota Camry, and because of mobile integration, I’m able to tell what the demographics of the audience within Times Square, because with camera-sensing technology, I can run the demographic. I can tell what’s the makeup. So all that comes together in a whole collection of data that will bring value like we’ve ever seen before. That’s what I mean by attribution, and it’s existed for a while on the internet and even in the mobile space but never in a combination of them.”

Adam Carroll, project manager at Phoenix Vision

“Privacy and data protection are, in my view, the biggest concern when it comes to consumers. Consumers don’t want to feel violated.

From a marketing standpoint, it’s great for us to be able to target down into what consumers are interested in. But we also have to understand how we can get the consumers to be aware that it’s all anonymous—conveying that message.

With the brands that we deal with, it’s all about legalities—they’re very concerned about privacy and don’t want to come off as if they’re violating someone’s privacy right. As an industry, we’ve got to figure out how to convey that message—technology is only getting more and more, not invasive, but more in tune with the consumer.

We’ve had a couple brands who say we can do the CMS [content management system], but we don’t want to capture any data. And if you capture the data, we don’t want to have it; we don’t want any issues. Even though it complies with the GDPR law and it’s all anonymous, there’s no imagery taken. I think screens can be placed anywhere. They’re in cars, an overpass, the ads on your phone, but I think if we’re going to be improving this technology and learn more about the consumer, that’s where my focus would be.”

@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.