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By 2021, digital will account for more than half of all US advertising spend, with mobile accounting for almost 80% of all digital spend. Identified by eMarketer, this trend has led some to regard location as the cookie of the digitally integrated world.

This is due to the diminished ability of advertisers, hamstrung by legislation such as GDPR, to use established data points such as cookies to target media placements.

However, increases in the amount of digital signage on the market, along with developments in artificial intelligence, have prompted many to speculate that out-of-home (OOH) media may be the latest format to benefit from the digital revolution.

The eMarketer report cited above suggests that OOH’s share of overall ad spend will soon drop. However, an increasing number of alliances between digital outfits, and names more traditionally associated with the outdoor sector, aim to address this.

For instance, a 2017 joint report from media agency trade body the 4A’s and OOH outfit Posterscope claims that data will soon move from being owned to being open, given the rate at which new data is being created (researchers estimate that 90% of the world’s data was created in the past two years).

“Instead of being owned, data will become open and shareable, ultimately resulting in more effective and efficiently planned cross-channel campaigns,” reads the report. “The evolution of data sharing will benefit all media types and allow OOH to move out of the silo and become seamlessly integrated into broader digital strategies.”

It goes on to state that programmatic platforms that enable brands to deliver campaigns which can be optimized in real time will become commonplace, thus enabling OOH to redress the agility imbalance this media type has suffered from in recent years.

Brands too, including Coca-Cola-owned Innocent Drinks, are trialling such media placements. A campaign in January 2018 utilized a programmatic buying method that allowed it to use anonymized audience data to inform the most effective creative execution on OOH screens in different locations.

The campaign was delivered in conjunction with GroupM media agency MediaCom, and mobile specialist outfit Mobsta. The campaign’s 55m data touchpoints, which ensured optimal campaign delivery, were enabled by the cross-industry OOH media analytics initiative Route, which launched formally in 2013.

However, such projects are not limited to media planning and measurement teams. Jen Smith, who was until March this year the global creative director at GroupM stablemate Maxus, recently told The Drum that such collaboration is now at the heart of the agency’s strategy. “Everyone is excited about all the data feeds that can now feed into out-of-home posters,” she says. “They are excited by what is possible with data programmatically via their outdoor campaigns.

“For Maxus, technology and data sit at the heart of the agency. We restructured just over a year ago to make sure our technology, effectiveness and data (TED) team function sat in the center of the agency.”

Fellow GroupM outfit Xaxis, the media-buying arm’s adtech hub, was one of the first to use such technology in a 2015 pilot with Rubicon Project.

Other names in the traditional OOH sector have also embraced programmatic ad serving, with Clear Channel wooing brands such as Deliver and MercedezBenz. The company told The Drum that the pace of change at Clear Channel, considered a traditional OOH outfit, has seen digital account for 60% of its overall revenues, compared with 2% several years earlier.

Other recent examples of data-sharing partnerships to enable more relevant outdoor ad placements includes Neustar, an online identity management company that uses more than 300 points of enterprise and personal data, partnering with OOH giant JCDecaux. The team-up will enable those working with the pair to access over 20,000 audience profiles, ranging from psychographic and behavioral data to attitudes, preferences, buying patterns, interests and media usage.

This year also saw Clear Channel unveil the Digital Urban Panel, a digital panel designed to help advertisers reach consumers based on their travel patterns and behaviors derived from mobile data. The scheme will also see it integrate all its OOH pedestrian-level printed and HD screens in San Francisco, including bus shelters, stationary transit media and transit hubs, through its digitally linked Radar platform. Clear Channel anticipates this network will deliver a measured audience of over 1.8 million adults more than 18 ad impressions weekly.

Elsewhere, at the recent Global Digital Signage Expo hosted in Las Vegas, AI outfit AdMobilize unveiled vehicle recognition software that could power its Marketers Love Measurement initiative, subject to imminent trials. The scheme will see AdMobilize pairing with outdoor signage outfits in the downtown Las Vegas area. The company plans to mount a unit containing its vehicle recognition engine, which will collect key vehicle data that will be streamed to its dashboard to be then made available to advertisers.

As with any new format of media, programmatic OOH will not come without challenges. Standards to aid the planning, execution and measurement of such media placements must be agreed and rolled out.

Work on this began in earnest last year in the US, as the Digital Place Based Advertising Association (DPAA), a trade body representing the interests of OOH players, released its first set of programmatic standards for display and video ad formats.

These proposals, developed in partnership with consulting outfit Prohaska Consulting, also included recommendations for supply-side platforms (SSP) reporting on inventory, which will theoretically make it easier for media buys across different media sources.

Meanwhile, traditional OOH suppliers must learn about digital video protocols such as Video Player-Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) and the Video Ad Serving Template (VAST), says Andreas Soupliotis, the founder and chief executive officer of the DOOH adtech company Ayuda. “One of the biggest challenges we face in becoming a programmatic medium is being able to play an ad on a screen and then report back to video buyers in a language they understand.”

And while the DPAA standards formalize language and basic SSP integrations, DOOH media and digital measurement are still disconnected.

According to Matt Prohaska, the chief executive officer at Prohaska Consulting who worked with the DPAA, the efforts are at “the classic implementation phase” with both the trade body and consultancy attempting to engineer Interactive Advertising Bureau backing for the proposals outlined in its 2017 white paper.

Standardized digital campaign reporting can also miss a lot of the unique value offered by OOH media, such as untargeted passers-by who may also view a DOOH video. Prohaska explains that if SSPs can perform dynamic creative ad insertion, this will prove a boon for more intelligent public ad insertion.

This feature first appeared in The Drum's June issue, which looked at the future of smart cities.

Find out more about how Out of Home will influence the rise of the Smart City and how it will affect marketers at The Drum's Future of Marketing: Welcome to Cyberville conference taking place on 22 November in London.