Q&A: Changing the Way OOH is Created, Planned and Bought

Sep 21, 2017 4:53:31 PM

"Once OOH is in your blood, you start appreciating it more and noticing its effectiveness..." - Brent Baer, VP of Business Development at Buntin OOH Media. 


I recently had the honor to interview an Out-of-home expert with 30+ years of experience, Brent Baer. He had his first taste of the industry working at Gannett Outdoor in Sales and now is the VP of Business Development at Buntin OOH Media


Measurence: In the article “Digital Brands and Out-of-Home” on Billboard Insider, you wrote about how digital brands are beginning to understand the hyper local targeting value of OOH. Why do you think these “high tech” companies were slow to adopt this?

Brent: “Why is any advertiser slow to adopt OOH? The  first blush is, OOH is not perceived as “sexy.”  Second, it’s much easier to share an idea in 30 seconds than it is in 8 seconds. Third, high tech supports their own media first, meaning digital or online first, then television or some format of TV.   Fourth, a more basic to the human nature of social acceptance, is the amount of broadcast networks making sales calls. The total  numbers of sales people calling are counted in  dozens. Whereas in OOH, the number of salespeople calling is typically counted with one hand.  OOH is unfortunately last in the consideration set for media.  


The question might be, not, Why they were they slow to adapt? but, why are they continuing to use OOH after initial trials?  High tech companies are increasing OOH budgets.


It's because OOH is moving services and products. Recognizing  the power of OOH, technology and digital continues to invest heavily in OOH with the likes of Amazon, Android, Apple, AT&T, Barracuda, Casper,  Comcast, Cox Communications, Dell, Facebook, Google, Hulu, Lyft, Metro PCS, Microsoft, Netflix, Samsung, Snapchat, Sprint, Spotify, T-Mobile, Twitter, Uber, US Cellular, Verizon, Yahoo, and YouTube.  


Measurence: How is technology changing the industry?

Brent:Mobile data is the number one technology which is changing everything.  The ability to geospatially track, know where and who people are, is changing the game exponentially.  We can infuse data to create a custom OOH plan, then provide attribution.  We can assure our clients their OOH messages are at the right place and in the right moment to connect with their target audience.  

With mobile data, we have greater ability to prove that OOH works. Five years ago, mobile data was barely on the horizon. Through mobile data we’re able to measure exposure and activity after exposure, essentially measuring the effectiveness.”

Measurence: How has out-of-home buying changed over the past years and how do you believe it will it change in the years to come?

Brent: “Buying is  becoming less personal. And it seems to be headed for automation or programmatic.  We’re not quite automated yet. We’re a ways away, in many respects, even if the software might be nearly ready. The question becomes,  is programmatic or buying automation the right way to go?  

Buying OOH has changed over the past 10 years to be significantly less personal. With a few exceptions, OOH vendors complete spreadsheets provided  by agencies, completing line items. The spreadsheets require an array of data, like location descriptions,  identifying GeoPath and  Vendor numbers, traffic direction,  face direction, impressions,  current advertiser,  weekly impressions, total impressions, rate card, discounted rate, client rate,  everything you can imagine about that location was on the spreadsheet. Oh and the last column, usually is ‘other information’  in case the vendor wanted to share highlights about that unit in particular.  It is the opportunity to sell or become personal in many cases. 

There are  spreadsheets from some agencies with ten columns per billboard location and some agencies have 25+ columns. As a result, the interaction between buyer and seller has been reduced to an exchange of data via spreadsheets.  Who has time to discuss or read the last line when the buyer has to go through 25 line items per OOH unit?  Multiply that task to a 52 panel buy and in 10 markets.  The weight of the work is exhausting. I fear it has become a check the box and keep moving process.  

As the process has been reduced to spreadsheets, it seems inevitable it’s going to total automation, skipping the  spreadsheet task altogether, making it even less personal.

Some  define programmatic as buying impressions--some OOH companies support selling impressions  only. You have that impressions only advertiser that says in addition to her ‘impressions only buy’ she wants a specific location.  The location is the only one in an upscale neighborhood,  it's dead ahead center of the road, low to the highway and fills the windshield. How do you account for that request in an impressions only programmatic or automated buy?  It's easy to automate a 10 million impressions buy for a city and accept whatever locations a vendor provides, but what happens when a specific location or two or three enter the request?  That makes it a little less automated and more custom.  


Twenty years ago, it was common for an advertiser to get into a car with the seller to “ride locations.” The buyer met the seller.  She would spend the greater part of the day, riding the market to verify every location’s viability to the campaign. Visibility was just part of the evaluation process. As much as we’ve made huge progress in our industry with Geopath ratings, we’re still missing information to complete the data set required to trust a fully automated buy.  


Some buyers still get in a car to ride locations. Maybe drones will replace a buyer in a car as a spreadsheet has replaced a presentation and as email has replaced a sales call.

Measurence:  From the “2017 Internet trends” by Mary Meeker report, we saw that advertisers are over spending on print and under spending on mobile. the report doesn't consider ooh though. How would you think the chart for ooh would look like?


Brent: “Considering all the time people spent on the road, outside their homes  -- while going to work, play or shop -- OOH is sorely underrepresented in the ratio of exposure time to the amount of money allocated to OOH budgeting”.

Measurence: Given ad inventory is differentiated by targeting and tracking, how is OOH applying this? how does the future look like?

Brent: “OOH has always been about targeting and tracking. Have we always tracked it well, probably not. Targeting and tracking is improving as we move  forward with the acceptance of certain technologies capturing geolocation data from sources such as carrier data, mobile ad networks, GPS, mapping apps, sensors and beacons.  Everyone is working on it.  Geopath’s, Kym Frank  and her team has worked tirelessly to get their hands around it, while herding all the OOH players to a similar path.  The future will be using tech including software in: 1. providing real time actual impressions versus average time impressions. 2. Measuring dwell or exposure travel time.  3. More detailed scoring of locations  4. Real time viewing of the OOH media. 5. Identifying, recognizing and speaking to individuals, neighborhoods or entire ‘tribes’  The tech exists. How to utilize it, sorting out which to use, what is best and accepting it, is our challenge. The future looks great!

Measurence: Data from the economist says that OOH has been stable for years while other offline medium have been cannibalized by digital ads. Why do you suppose this phenomenon has occurred?


Brent: Everyone in OOH seems to want to discuss the shortcomings of other media when asked this question. Not going there.  Let’s promote OOH on its own merits.  The number one reason for the phenomenon is the growth of digital sign inventory over the last ten plus years has significantly impacted the industry spend by providing advertisers with more choices and options.  OOH has been building and installing digital signage at a furious pace. The growth of digital sign inventory is off the charts and that monster build out has provided advertisers with significantly greater options such as real time messaging like streaming posts from social media, live sports scores, news, local weather conditions and traffic. Digital OOH provides savings in production costs:  instant turnaround or install time; flexible creative changes; day parting messaging; and shorter campaign duration. Digital can now be in and on Taxi cabs, buses and bathrooms.  We have managed to keep advertisers because we have changed and adapted creating OOH to suit their needs.  



Additionally and to a lesser extent, the advent of lightweight vinyl has kept OOH relevant to advertisers providing significantly greater options to wrap nearly anything.  We are creating OOH where none previously existed.  

 Interested to see what the future can look like for your company, check out a sample OOH report:
 Download Sample OOH Report



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