The out-of-home market will get a little more data-rich next quarter as some big digital billboard networks embrace location analytics courtesy of Posterscope and Vistar Media.
Posterscope, a London-based OOH agency owned by Dentsu Aegis Network, will use Vistar Media's location data to support an bidding platform for ad delivery to signs owned by Lamar Advertising and Outfront Media (formerly CBS Outdoor). Together, Lamar and Outfront control more than 2,800 digital billboards in the United States and represent about a third of OOH ad supply.
The offering, announced about a week ago, will be available to marketers in Q1 2015.
Vistar Media had already worked to improve its location analytics for OOH by partnering with mobile tracking company AirSage in October. By introducing an RTB platform, Vistar is making that data actionable by allowing marketers to bid on ad space and target audiences at specific times of day.
Leveraging location data on an RTB platform should allow digital OOH space to better compete with online ads for marketers’ ad spending, said Mark Boidman, managing director at investment banking advisory firm Peter J. Solomon Co.
“You can buy online video advertising and target (a specific audience) at two o’clock in the morning from your living room. You can’t as easily do that with out-of-home media,” Boidman said. “The more they can break it down and make the ability to target (specific audiences) easier ... will very much level the playing field with other advertising buckets.”
OOH media has traditionally required large upfront buys, with marketers more concerned with brand awareness than direct response from audiences.
The RTB platform will “allow advertisers to access inventory in a more granular way,” said James Davies, chief strategy officer at Posterscope. “If you’re an outdoor media owner, historically that inventory is sold in fairly big blocks. You’ll be live all day, every day for a month or something like that. What this allows advertisers to do is say, ‘I just want Thursday afternoon and that’s it,’ so it can be a lot more targeted.”
The decision to buy for Thursday afternoon, or any other time, will be informed by the location tracking and analytics courtesy of Vistar.
Even as digital OOH buying becomes more like online ads, differences will remain.
“There is a fundamental difference between the online world and the out-of-home world,” Davies said. “If you stick up an ad on a digital billboard, you’re generally not doing that to get people to jump into the nearest store and buy a product.”
Still, marketers used to the performance-driven online ad world would like to see more data on how well an OOH campaign is working.
“It’s added intelligence. ... It’d be nice to know that (OOH ads) are driving some form of action. Action is not going to be direct-response, but media should drive more awareness, or people to your store,” or some other tangible result, said Jeremy Ozen, co-founder of Vistar Media.
Part of the challenge in introducing RTB to digital OOH has been standardizing inventory data. Each of the big OOH players (Lamar, Outfront and Clear Channel Outdoor) run their inventory with different systems, and may even have varying systems themselves for different types of OOH inventory.
Limited inventory will be available on the platform starting in January as it begins beta testing and Vistar Media works to perform custom technical integrations with the varying systems and the platform.