Beyond Direct Sales: The Benefits Of Programmatic DOOH For Brands

digital billboards in city

By Nigel Clarkson, CRO Hivestack

With the return of bigger audiences and the end to lockdown in many parts of the world, out-of-home (OOH) advertising revenue is expected to bounce back in 2021 with a growth forecast at $36.6 billion globally. This will make OOH the second-fastest growing advertising medium this year, with digital out of home (DOOH) driving the majority of this growth.

In what has been a challenging year for all, the OOH industry has demonstrated its ability to innovate and has undergone significant transformation brought about by the increased adoption by many of programmatic technology. During the pandemic period, OOH media owners have made moves to make their digital inventory available to OOH DSP’s to be traded programmatically.  The use of data and automation will streamline multiple manual processes requiring human effort and interaction. Historically, OOH was once exclusively negotiated by people and governed by the “insertion order”, requiring location scouting and communication via emails and phone calls, which then made it to ad ops for trafficking and charting. Programmatic has changed this process completely and consequently, brings valuable benefits for both brands and agencies, but also media owners alike.

Here are three reasons why programmatic is a marketers’ best ally when it comes to buying DOOH:

Audience Flexibility

In the post-pandemic world, the option of budget fluidity is a welcome relief. Programmatic pricing models are flexible and give brands the power to increase or decrease ad spend, adjust campaign parameters, or even pause campaigns altogether in response to external changes, all in real-time. In the traditional OOH model, campaigns were bought weeks and often months in advance. This increased ability to optimize and alter flighting and delivery in real-time has been widely embraced by the market and allows DOOH to be more reactive as a partner to other media channels.


The two main ways that clients and publishers are currently using programmatic DOOH is via Private Marketplace (PMP) or Open Exchange buys. PMP buys allow publisher and buyer to pre-agree rates, budget and campaign parameters such as additional demographic data, time flighting, optimizing delivery, utilizing mobile location data, all then packaged and delivered programmatically. This is the logical first step for our partners to take their first steps into programmatic DOOH.

Open Exchange buys are more similar to the online/digital world, whereby the budget, CPMs and data parameters are loaded into the DSP, and the platform then makes agnostic buying decisions against the best-converting spots for that campaign, using real-time mobile location data.  The ”Exchange” gives access to all available DOOH  inventory allowing brands to buy impressions across multiple DOOH media owners on the most relevant screens at the most relevant time.  Again, data is the key component here and platforms can ingest mobile location data (custom audiences) as well as demographic and behavioural data, or even utilize ‘trigger’ signals such as temperature, sunshine, pollen, or traffic speed to change or upweight ad messages if the environmental conditions are right.

This means that via one consolidated dashboard, buyers can now get a view of the whole market, dictate the pace of delivery, and let the platform do the hard work, with performance metrics delivered in one campaign across multiple media owners. Likewise, the OOH media owners also get to see their programmatic revenues on a consolidated dashboard across multiple buyers and brands.

Audience Targeting

OOH always used the power of location targeting to reach relevant audiences with contextual messaging – for instance, shoppers at supermarkets, business travelers in airports and commuters in public transport services. These OOH ads are purchased according to predictable consumer behaviour patterns, and are focused on certain spots and geographic locations. For example, brands have assumed they are likely to reach business travelers at airports during the week, sports fans near stadiums on match days and families in shopping malls at weekends. But while there is always a certain element of routine in daily life and work, habits can be rapidly and irrevocably altered by unpredictable events, from small-scale lifestyle changes to bigger shifts such as a global pandemic.

Programmatic DOOH enables more precise targeting and delivery, allowing brands to reach the right people with the right message and at the right time by activating the most effective DOOH screens in real-time, something that traditional OOH buying does not offer. These activations are based on audience movement patterns and consumer behaviours to determine when, where and how DOOH can offer the maximum efficiency for brands.

Targeting parameters can be set around audience concentration, geofenced areas, offline behavior, weather conditions, and proximity to a point of interest. Brands can then define specific audience segments for ad targeting based on their programmatic partner’s data sources, leveraging inputs such as affinity, personas, footfall density and dwell-time. The availability of thoroughly vetted mobile location data opens up the possibility to deliver creative that is more likely to resonate with the target audience in the moment.

Audience Measurement

One of OOH’s main historic challenges has been measurement – understanding who viewed an ad and what impact that exposure has had on the customer. OOH is a one-to-many channel, and as an offline channel, there is no direct return path to the ads as there is with cookies and online tracking used to measure the immediate effectiveness of ads.

Programmatic DOOH now offers the ability to map the consumer path to purchase and link specific business outcomes to DOOH ad exposures. This means marketers can understand the impact on awareness, consideration, intent, and visitation, as well as conversion; all while respecting the user’s privacy. DOOH screens can be geo-fenced utilizing mobile location data that many marketers are familiar with from their online campaigns. We are then able to analyze at a huge scale, the mobile handsets that pass a DOOH screen, matched to the playout reports to create a group of exposed audiences.  Particularly for brands with a bricks-and-mortar presence, the platform is then able to measure and report on in-store visitation as a result of that ad exposure. Hivestack recently supported Mazda in driving footfall traffic into their dealerships to increase sales conversions. Through the implementation of a bespoke campaign set around custom audiences using anonymized mobile IDs, contextual creative, and brand metrics, the activation saw a 30% lift in footfall and an increase in future purchase intent.

With data-driven targeting precision, agile buying models and unprecedented audience measurement capabilities, programmatic DOOH is a natural progression for the OOH industry and a crucial component for any brand or agency’s marketing strategy. The uptake during the pandemic globally for programmatic DOOH has been staggering, and proof that the entire channel of OOH on both the buy and sell-side is building for a very exciting and frictionless future.

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