Programmatic Out-of-Home: Our Journey So Far

From a software team in a row home in Philly to a global advertising technology enterprise, a look at how programmatic is transforming the OOH industry.

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The out-of-home (OOH) media industry has grown and evolved in incredible ways over the last 5 years. Today, overall OOH advertising is a $7.5B industry in the US with still more opportunity to expand on the horizon. Now with the rise of programmatic OOH we’re seeing even further evolution of the marketplace.

We saw this evolution take place in the online world when programmatic technology was first introduced. In order to handle a rapidly growing media investment in digital, technology was created to provide both buyers and sellers the controls they needed. The online world suffered from the inefficiencies of ad networks, sitting between agencies and publishers and taking 70%+ margins. Ultimately, demand side platforms (DSPs) were created to provide transparent buying at a fraction of the cost across the same inventory.

In the OOH market, most transactions are directly between an agency or brand and a media owner, so the problems are not quite the same as the digital world faced. What has been a struggle in OOH, however, was demonstrating clear ROI to advertisers - something digital has excelled at. Digital was in a spot where eyeballs were shifting to online away from other traditional media forms such as print. In OOH, the eyeballs were already there - but there was no technology to efficiently transact against that scale, nor was there data and measurement systems for proving the value of OOH to advertisers.  

Fortunately, that technology has been built over the past 5 years.

Marketers are diving into digital out-of-home (DOOH) but many are still unsure how this could impact their sales. But with today’s technology, we have the ability to measure the impact of OOH advertising as never before and help marketers understand their consumers in amazing new ways, based on their movement patterns. On the supply side, media owners are maximizing the potential of their assets by monetizing their unused inventory and increasing yield, embracing holistic revenue management and turning previous cost centers (CMS platforms, network infrastructure management, etc.) into areas that can support revenue generation.

This is a dynamic industry and I’m so proud of the role Vistar has played in helping build the digital OOH landscape of today and opportunities for the future. Looking back at our own timeline offers a snapshot of how the OOH industry as a whole has evolved, tackling new challenges and pushing for more creativity, measurement and impact at every step.

  • January 2012: Vistar opens operation in Philadelphia. First things first: as a technology driven company, build our engineering strength up right from the start. Still today our ad tech engineering team is in Philly, 25+ people strong and growing.

  • July 2012: Vistar expands to NYC to start our sales office. NYC is the mecca for advertising so as we started spending more time with media owners, trading desks and agencies, the immediate expansion was a necessity.

  • October 2012: Vistar launches the first ad exchange for DOOH. This included the first DSP and SSP for DOOH, allowing buyers and sellers to transact with the efficiency of programmatic for DOOH media.

  • January 2013: WPP and Vistar announce their partnership for launching the first programmatic OOH campaigns.

  • October 2013: Vistar releases our first version of a publisher ad server (media owner ad server).

  • June 2014: Vistar forms a partnership with AirSage to access Verizon and Sprint’s wireless carrier data to change the way OOH media is planned and targeted.

  • September 2014: Vistar launches its mobile capabilities now offering the first cross-screen end-to-end media solution for marketers across mobile and out-of-home media.

  • December 2014: Vistar and Lamar announce the entrance of digital billboards into the programmatic ecosystem, bringing further innovation to OOH and allowing clients such as Dentsu Aegis to target audiences reliably as they move throughout the real world.

  • March 2015: Vistar releases the first ever foot traffic attribution solution for OOH. For the first time ever, retail marketers can understand the effectiveness of their OOH campaigns.

  • October 2015: Clear Channel announces integration and partnership with Vistar to continue the drumbeat across programmatic OOH, adding location-based audience analytics to Clear Channels diverse DOOH inventory.

  • December 2015: Vistar releases an inventory management system for media owners equivalent to the airline industry’s software for managing seats on flights.

  • February 2016: Vistar releases a free planning tool to the OOH buyer community in an effort to reduce manual work and provide advanced mapping functionality to the industry.

  • November 2016: Vistar releases partnership with LiveRamp and Acxiom to leverage first party CRM and sales transaction data for OOH targeting and measurement.

  • December 2016: Vistar partners with IHS/Polk for first-to-market targeting solution for holistic definition of “in-market auto intenders” as well as a first-to-market solution for OOH closed-loop sales lift measurement.

  • January 2017: Vistar announces partnership with Kantar Shopcom allowing marketers to target CPG audiences, and to execute closed loop sales lift studies for reliable ROI on their campaigns.

We started with a very naive agenda: bring automated and data-driven transactions to out-of-home media. Today, Vistar is a 65-person technology company with 7 offices, and we are hiring aggressively with a goal of growing to 95+ people and 11 offices by the end of 2017. We’ve been profitable for the past 3 years and truly hit our stride building the most robust advertising platform for out-of-home media.

Again, I couldn’t be more proud of everyone on our team and I can’t thank our clients and partners enough for their continued support.

Over the start of 2017 we’ve continued investing in the progress and innovation of the digital out-of-home industry and we plan on changing the way the entire space plans, works and transacts out-of-home media. I can’t wait for all the big announcements and accomplishments upcoming as we make 2017 another great year!