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Programmatic out-of-home is booming. And it’s driving results for major brands.

Programmatic out-of-home is booming. And it’s driving results for major brands.

“The flexibility to launch and pause in real-time, scale spending up or down at will, and swap creatives on the fly.”

Consumers are looking up from their smartphones and advertisers are seeing opportunities.

In fact, the global digital out-of-home (OOH) market is expected to reach $35 billion by the year 2027, with the U.S., China, Canada, Japan, Korea, and Europe leading the way.

Large format OOH digital screens can now be found in every major U.S. market as well as many airports, according to a new report by Rapport/Magna on the rapid expansion of the digital OOH. It’s a channel — in the context of the great outdoors — that is set to boom in the next few years, the report finds.

With increased digital inventory and demand from advertisers, the report forecasts the U.S. digital OOH market to grow by an additional $1 billion between 2021 and 2025, increasing its share of the almost $2 billion OOH market by 10 percent.

One of the key drivers of this expansion includes advertisers recognizing the benefits of programmatic buys in the channel, which allows for greater flexibility and agility. Major brands such as Mercedes-Benz are capitalizing on their customer data with a smart programmatic campaign to drive awareness of a new electric SUV. “As the number of trading platforms for DOOH expand, so do the inventory and data pools, increasing the reach and precision of programmatic OOH,” the report states.

“We’re definitely seeing interest in programmatic increasing along with average campaign size,” Helen Miall, the chief marketing officer at VIOOH, tells The Current. While the pandemic was an accelerant, appetite continues to grow month on month, Miall adds. “Programmatically, it’s become much more aligned with other digital channels.”

DOOH drives performance for Mercedes-Benz

What’s changing is the perception of digital OOH as a medium — like CTV — that allows ad buyers “the flexibility to launch and pause in real-time, scale spending up or down at will, and swap creatives on the fly,” says Dave Etherington, chief commercial officer at Place Exchange.

“Moreover, programmatic OOH offers massive national scale, high-impact messaging in the real-world, full-funnel measurability, and avoids the bot fraud, viewability, and issues prevalent in other channels,” he says.

The fact that many brands can now deploy their first-party customer data to optimize campaigns is also fueling programmatic OOH buys. It allows for much greater precision than the OOH campaigns of the past, with brands able to target specific audiences in specific locations.

A recent example, run by VIOOH on The Trade Desk platform, was a Mercedes-Benz campaign launched in major cities across Spain intended to drive brand awareness of its new electric SUV. The automaker created a data-driven strategy using its own customer data to target existing customers, as well as find new ones, via “street furniture” such as bus shelters. The result speaks for itself, with 37 percent of targeted customers going into a dealership to do a test drive.

“You can really utilize some fantastic data to make [campaigns] just so relevant,” says Miall. “By using this data for targeting you’re actually becoming very efficient in your media spend.”

Thanks to this new flexibility, agencies say their clients are ready to adopt programmatic OOH strategies early on when planning their media mix. “With the ability to overlay not just geographical data but first-party data and retargeting, OOH has quickly become a more strategic channel that can elevate direct OOH buys,” says Shaun Williams, the associate media director of programmatic at Harmelin Media.

Additionally, the performance of OOH can also now be measured using the same device-level data and attribution methods applied to other channels. “That has enabled advertisers to understand not just brand awareness and foot traffic driven by OOH, but lower-funnel conversion metrics like CPA and ROI,” says Etherington. “The fact that pre-campaign forecasting, mid-campaign optimization, and post-campaign measurement and analytics can now all be done for OOH on par with other programmatic channels has been a key factor driving its growth.”