IAB's DIY guide for digital out-of-home advertising challenges old and new thinking

Despite fewer people on the streets, the flexibility of digital has claimed more than half the out-of-home market

Marketers investing in digital out-of-home (DOOH) media can boost their understanding of the medium with a new DIY manual on DOOH just released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau Australia’s (IAB) working group of industry stakeholders.

The DOOH’s Buyers Guide gives an overview of DOOH opportunities, formats, buying methods, audiences and measurement, verifications and tips for creatives and a buyer’s checklist. The guide was compiled with the help of 20 organisations operating in the space. When lockdown restrictions are lifted, the association plans to run a roadshow and training on ways of working with DOOH.

While targeted at media buyers, IAB Australia CEO, Gai Le Roy, said the guide is also for media owners and adtech marketing people who need to know how to work with media buyers on DOOH.

“It’s also for people who are already buying traditional out-of-home [OOH] media who might not be digital-savvy, particularly about programmatic buying, to take them through what a DOOH supply chain looks like,” Le Roy told CMO.

It’s also pitched at digital buyers - who might have never bought a billboard - to help them understand differences for large format, for ads for many and varied eyes, as well as the flexible possibilities of digital generally.

The area where there’s the greatest room for improved understanding, says Le Roy, is programmatic buying. The Guide has responded with a comprehensive outline of ways to buy, comparing benefits of direct versus programmatic buying, the difference between programmatic DOOH and other digital programmatic options, programmatic supply chain for the physical world of DOOH, and ways to buy and sell in the DOOH marketplace. 

“For example, there’s definitely a lack of education on why DOOH is different for a buyer who has inventory in display, video, some audio and they want to extend their reach into OOH,” Le Roy said. “DOOH is not a one-to-one-medium, it’s not one set of eyeballs looking. That’s difficult for a digital buyer to get their head around for a start.”

Covid smashed and yet boosted DOOH

Le Roy cited a lot of new brands and buyers turning to DOOH for the first time for its digital elements, not least the flexibility of digital offers. And while Covid-19 hit OOH advertising hard, it also dramatically accelerated the popularity of DOOH because it can quickly turn on a dime.

“Last year, Covid super-charged the growth of the programmatic digital industry because clients needed very flexible options,” said Le Roy.  “Back in March last year, brands were saying ‘I’ve got all this investment in OOH and I now need to change my messaging’. Or they wanted to change where it was appearing. Between lockdowns they’d say, ‘I’m going to go back because, based on footfall data, people are back in the streets around their offices.’ Or they just needed to pull back.”

Outdoor Media Association (OMA) figures show OOH net revenue year-on-year plunged 39.4 per cent in 2020. Yet the OMA found demand for immediacy and flexibility continued to drive growth in DOOH, which in 2020 represented 56.1 per cent of total OOH revenue, up slightly from 2019 despite the pandemic.

According to Le Roy, the aspects of digital and programmatic DOOH least understood include timing and creative.

“Timing is important for everyone involved, not just buyers chasing the best time of week or day for a brand. They also need to understand the possibilities for variations as well as the time required to change the messaging,” she said.

“If a brand wants to change their messaging and get that new message out there, they need to understand how long it’s going to take, what the process is, and who they need to brief about what.”

Digital buyers and creatives know the rules of other digital platforms they’re creating but digital outdoor has a different set of rules. Another ambition with IAB’s guide to is help brands new to DOOH and OOH gain an understanding of what types of creative investment they need to make.

“There are more nuanced rules around what can and can’t be shown in a public place - or in a specific area such as near a school - and what sort of sign-offs are needed,” said Le Roy. “Briefing an agency for a banner is very different to briefing for a large format out of home execution – whether for digital or just out of home – the creative needs will be different.”

The creative assets of DOOH are increasingly smart and elaborate, offering some of the possibilities of other digital platforms including contextualisation, hyper-targeting, retargeting and interactive creative assets. Some, but not all, offer dynamic creative optimisation where creative can change according to data such as whether it’s raining or fine, so that a suitable ad plays and feels relevant.

With less data captured in the physical, outdoor world, aspects of DOOH such as audience profile, measurement and verification might not please buyers as much as its flexibility, and these too, are covered in the guide. The IAB promises further development of verification and standards and Le Roy said scrutiny will rightly get tougher.

“There’s always a need for scrutiny and buyers’ attitudes will be mixed. But the numbers we’re seeing increasing their spends, the new players entering, increasing numbers of screens, all show growth,” she said.

IAB Australia’s working group, a mix of companies involved in the DOOH including advertising platforms, media buying platforms, DOOH measurement organisations, street furniture and outdoor media companies and mobile advertising companies.

OMA charts of out-of-home advertising 2014-2020Credit: Outdoor Media Association
OMA charts of out-of-home advertising 2014-2020


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