Why programmatic DOOH is a winning strategy for 2021 ad planning


As the new year approaches, industries across the board could not be more thrilled to part with 2020, which will undoubtedly go down as one of the most challenging years of our time. 

In advertising and marketing, a dramatic decrease in spending extracted a heavy toll in the pandemic’s early days. Yet, as recovery begins, the industry is emerging more unified. In fact, the Interactive Advertising Bureau expects 2020 to close with a 6 percent increase in digital ad spend from 2019. The experiences we’ve navigated throughout 2020 will shape a stronger industry moving forward — one with a vastly different landscape. 

In this new normal, programmatic digital-out-of-home (DOOH) is more relevant than ever and will be a major consideration for 2021 advertising and marketing plans.  

OOH and shifting consumer behaviors 

As shelter-in-place orders went into effect earlier this year, the global economy largely pivoted to a work-from-home model. Initially, many teams discovered a boost to productivity and flexibility, but with time enthusiasm around working from home began to fade as people found themselves perpetually tethered to digital displays.

With so much time spent indoors, screen fatigue proved a significant challenge for advertisers and marketers. Longing for a break from the monotony and a remedy for cabin fever, more consumers have begun turning to the outdoors for respite, as reported by OAAA’s Q4 Harris Poll on Consumer Trends

Not only are more people going outside, but outdoor ads are also capturing their attention. In line with this trend, OOH has seen an increasingly engaged audience across retail, especially for inventory located near supermarkets, as well as roadside and transit, even as once-prime venues like stadiums, concert halls and airports are experiencing reduced traffic. 

While ad spend on travel and entertainment is down, consumers are diverting more of their disposable income to purchasing essentials such as groceries and household supplies, as well as electronics, home decor and leisurewear, as they dedicate more time to cooking, home improvement and fitness. These changes in consumer behavior are introducing new opportunities for advertisers. 

Yet, for brands navigating marketing and media strategies today, there is no clear linear path. Conditions in the pandemic are shifting daily, and in such a climate, a message that seems relevant today could be inappropriate the next. 

For media buyers, having the flexibility and agility to update campaign creative and settings on the fly, as they can with programmatic DOOH, is essential. Programmatic DOOH also provides greater budget fluidity in a time of uncertainty, empowering media buyers to shift budgets within DOOH campaign line items and to or from other media channels as circumstances dictate. 

A pivotal moment for DOOH

As an advertising channel, OOH is one of the oldest yet most effective. Year on year, it’s experienced consistent growth, and it’s expected to recover from the pandemic faster than other traditional media

The sheer volume of digital OOH screens is also growing, with more than 340,000 billboards dispersed throughout the U.S. alone. The number of those boards that are digital has increased by 43 percent in the past four years. DOOH’s rapidly growing footprint will continue to multiply capabilities and efficiencies.

At the same time, more publishers are modernizing their systems and making more inventory available programmatically, which is helping to fuel the rise of programmatic DOOH. 

Not only do OOH and DOOH offer a range of advantages, but according to research by Nielsen, OOH overall is also one of the most effective ways to build trust in brands. This is vital, as brand loyalty has plummeted during the pandemic. According to recent research from McKinsey, 75 percent of consumers stated that they had developed a new shopping behavior since the start of the pandemic.

In addition, OOH ads are more likely to propel consumers to act — starting an online search for a product or brand, for example. DOOH also excels when it comes to creative messaging. Between a pandemic, a U.S. election year, a series of natural disasters and more, contextual relevance is vital for brands, and personalization is quickly becoming the expectation. 

Programmatic DOOH is paving a path to help advertisers meet these demands with dynamic DOOH creative that can adapt to triggers such as weather, traffic, store-level inventory data and more. And with more people traveling locally, it’s introducing new opportunities for hyperlocal marketing. 

The role of programmatic

DOOH is bracing for an exponential phase of growth, and as it grows, its programmatic transition will be key. In the last few years, more online and mobile demand-side platforms (DSPs) have begun integrating with DOOH supply-side platforms (SSPs) to make programmatic DOOH more accessible to omnichannel media buyers. 

Simultaneously, players across the industry have come together to address challenges that have previously held the channel back, such as standardization. For instance, several major DOOH ad tech players recently joined forces to bring standardization to DOOH venue data to help drive the medium’s programmatic transition forward.

Advertising is undergoing one of its most monumental shifts ever between a global pandemic, the death of the cookie and looming privacy and transparency concerns about digital. In this transition period, the value proposition of OOH and DOOH is becoming readily apparent and accelerating the move to programmatic. 

With the maturation of programmatic DOOH, even in a time when the new normal is very unusual, new doors will open to reach audiences with more dynamic and meaningful omnichannel messages across online, mobile and outdoor channels. Each of these represents an opportunity to build brand trust and drive action. DOOH might just be that silver lining that advertisers, media buying agencies and publishers have been looking for in a roller coaster year.


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