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Interview: How Lamar Successfully Adopted Programmatic OOH



Gina Cubillas


With programmatic still fairly new to the DOOH industry, many media owners are still questioning how to approach it, how to integrate programmatic into their revenue strategy, and how to educate their teams and stakeholders. We turned to one of the experts in programmatic OOH to help answer some of these questions. Ian Dallimore, Vice President of Digital Growth & GM Programmatic at Lamar Advertising, shared with us how a traditional OOH company with more than 100 years of experience successfully adopted programmatic. 

Before working with Vistar, how did you view programmatic? 

Programmatic OOH didn’t exist. We took a chance to be the first Digital OOH company to play in the Programmatic OOH space 7 years ago. At the time, online/mobile programmatic had a different feel - it was viewed as “race to the bottom” or “remnant”. From day one, my thought for Lamar to be in the space was about being more efficient at a premium and making our product available to be purchased using data.

What was the key turning point that ultimately led Lamar’s leadership to give the O.K. to make the switch? 

I’m fortunate to work for a company where our executives love innovation - we have it in our slogan: “Innovating since 1902.” Lamar has been at the forefront of all of the groundbreaking innovations in the past 40 years that have happened in our industry. We saw the opportunity to grow with Vistar and in order to do so we needed to get internal buy-in at the local level. That was a huge challenge that couldn’t have been done without our local GMs being a part of the “experiment” in the beginning. A lot of the buy-in came from education but most importantly through transparency and trust. I’m known to push the envelope with campaigns and digital capabilities so it wasn’t out of the ordinary to surprise them with something new to try. 

What was the process like getting buy-in/alignment internally across your sales organization and other teams? 

The process was all about trust and education as I’ve mentioned before. The biggest challenge I had was selling in the unknown. When we entered into the Programmatic OOH space we were the first so we didn’t have anything to compare this to, but the major hurdle was about control. For an organization that has been around for more than 117 years, we’ve never allowed an “outsider” to sell our inventory, especially with viewability into rates and inventory. It took a lot of hand holding internally, although if I’m honest at the very beginning we didn’t ask permission. We just built out the systems to connect with Vistar and let it go. 

It was difficult at first to really get anyone excited when you work for a company that does about $1.8+ billion in revenue. I would get a lot of, “Wow, thanks for the couple of pennies!” type comments, but I knew it was going to grow. It was about looking at the bigger picture towards the future. The other great thing is this was “found money” and only ran on space that would otherwise go unsold - and any incremental revenue is a good thing. 

Our business is 75-80% local and 20-25% national so the first thing I did was assure our Local GMs as that programmatic wasn’t going after the local business. The same conversation still happens today, teaching people that the goal is to go after digital agencies and DSPs, targeting brands and agencies that we’d never be able to do business with without a DSP/SSP connection. We continue to educate all of our staff and now, with the significant revenues we are bringing in, everyone on the sales side is beyond excited about Programmatic OOH.

Were there any hurdles or successes that stand out when you think about Lamar’s approach? 

In the beginning, and still today, we celebrate the big campaigns that come through. I remember one of the first sales we received was for a massive automotive company from a digital agency that I honestly had never heard of before this campaign. I remember calling our CEO, Sean Reilly, and I was so fired up, when in reality it was such a small number compared to even some local buys! It wasn’t about the dollar amount itself; it was more that we knew this could work. Now we enjoy receiving calls from our Regional and Territory Managers when we help make their market’s budget for the month. Last year we began talking about programmatic on our earnings call and at that point forward I knew we had 100% buy in and this would be a viable long term business unit for Lamar Advertising.

Click below to learn more about Lamar's programmatic success story.

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