05/07/2018 - Blogs

Automation and the "P" word in OOH: Why collaboration and Data-led strategies will enhance and grow OOH

Eric Newnham, CEO of Talon, reflects on the recent FEPE conference for the global OOH industry where he spoke about how automation is driving change for the better in OOH.

Digitisation and technology is having a transformational impact on the Out of Home advertising business globally, coming a long way from one of my first jobs in the industry where I would fill out inventory forms by hand. Today, well over half of Talon’s media billings are derived from digital campaigns, whilst the people we employ include data scientists, project managers, software developers, as well as planners, buyers, creatives and strategists.

Growth of digital inventory has also been a catalyst for proving effectiveness – over twice the levels seen previously according to the IPA - driven by improved stand out, larger audiences and a greater use of context from clients.

In other words, we are getting smarter. And thanks to significant global investment from many landlords and media owners, digitisation and technology is adding to the OOH value proposition to advertisers

But when we think about digitisation at Talon, it is really about everything we do. Not just about digital screens. It’s how we understand and buy inventory, how we understand and target audiences, and how we execute and deliver smarter campaigns.

At Talon we call this Smarter as Standard; a philosophy to embrace technology and shift towards more data-driven campaign planning, dynamic creative, automation and outcome-based measurement. This helps us deliver value and effectiveness to advertisers at scale. We even have a manifesto outlining our point of view on the future of OOH and integrate technology-led change across our business. Getting this right is how we believe we can truly grow OOH revenues.

The role and emergence of Automation

Automation plays an essential role in enabling smarter and more effective OOH, delivering better outcomes for our clients.

We believe that automation technologies will transform (they already are) how we transact OOH media, creating workflow efficiencies for our business and the OOH sector.

OOH may no longer be dominated by paper and paste ad units, but it still does what it has always done; it helps advertisers to reach large audiences, quickly, with unmissable brand-building advertising messages.

But simply automating the campaign planning, buying and delivery processes will do little to enable more targeted, effective and measurable campaigns – what advertisers really care about and demand. We remain focused on optimisation and measurement of our output.

In these transformational times, it can be tempting to accept a paradigm shift. Automation and intelligence does not naturally mean “programmatic”. The highly complex and often unmanageable digital programmatic processes and multitude of interlocking businesses, struggles to fit the ethos of OOH and the focus on moving audiences and location.

Treating OOH as just another set of impression-generating ad units serves interests close to online advertising technologies. But not those advertisers who value – and invest in – the OOH medium to drive brand fame.

Addressing the P-word

At Talon we are focused on growth and demonstrating effective delivery of brand communication messages in the real world. Globally, a number of automated or programmatic platforms are now emerging; some of our partners like Clear Channel, Intersection in the US and now JCDecaux have all announced their own unique programmatic platform initiatives.

We don’t underestimate the importance of technology driving change. But we are also some way off seeing the major DSPs committing significant resources to OOH as long as we remain committed as an industry to both paper and digital formats. 

Whilst some clients will simply want to access automated run of network opportunities, others will need a far more considered approach. Similarly, competing media owners will likely prefer to use their own technology to manage inventory supply and pricing, whilst partnering with independent and objective third parties - including some OOH specialists.

Talon is designing, testing and developing proprietary technology platforms to deliver on dynamic buying and real world moments, including an Automation Platform for OOH (Plat>O) and an Out-of-Home Data Management Platform (ODMP), using partners including data experts Black Swan.

Next level data integration and measurement of outcomes

The development roadmap for these platforms is designed to deliver on the true benefits of automation as being embraced by the industry, ensuring OOH does not become a race to the bottom.

Our Plat>O tool will fully replace ‘manual’ campaign planning, buying and delivery processes inside our business, fully integrating with internal systems and third parties, including ad-servers, media owners and ad verification partners. Through these integrations, Plat>O provides real-time market intelligence about all classic and digital OOH inventory to our planning and investment teams. This enables them to effectively negotiate price, automatically book inventory and activate a range of downstream campaign delivery processes.

This is helping us delver smart and creative campaigns at scale, combining an optimum combination of digital and classic OOH, whilst simultaneously optimising OOH delivery by format, location and time of day.

What really excites me - and what I believe can truly elevate OOH - is this integration of our digital and classic OOH operations, powered by billions of lines of geolocation data. Our ODMP goes beyond programmatic technology to help us understand more about the people who are really exposed to OOH communications. This will enable more data-driven OOH media planning than is possible today, whilst helping us better understand - and measure - the behaviour of audiences following exposure to OOH advertising and potentially moving those messages around different screens at different times of the day.

Traditionally, our medium is very difficult to standardise and having this buy-side flexibility is imperative to protect the channel’s core values, whilst driving greater efficiencies. It remains a more complex process than many realise. Where a campaign may look great on paper in terms of delivering impressions, it may actually appear invisible on the streets. Or simply be reaching people in the wrong moments.

A transformational but collaborative future

The work that is going on across the industry and certainly across our (now global) business, is about teams of people with the right mix of expertise, working together to deliver campaigns with consistent audience data and reporting. We absolutely see a future in which our people will be fully embedded in client and agency teams, delivering integrated, effective and smarter campaigns. Real people helping reach real people!

They’ll work side-by-side with digital buyers and they’ll use complementary technologies to manage OOH alongside digital mobile and online investments.

Some of that technology will be designed specifically for OOH audiences and locations; and that’s a big part of what we’re focused on at Talon. Taking a leadership position whilst making great strides in full collaboration with all our agency, media owner and data partners, embracing the entire OOH market.

Eric Newnham - CEO, Talon