Ask the Board – May 29, 2018 | DAVE KOPPELMAN


“How do you define programmatic, and what are its implications on the buy/sell process of digital signage?”

In my eyes, programmatic is more about automation, basically automating the media buying process. 

In the digital online world, programmatic is defined as the use of software to purchase digital advertising, as opposed to the traditional process that involves RFPs, human negotiations and manual insertion orders.  It isn’t that neat in the OOH world.

Out-of-Home media typically is laborious and tedious for a reason. The process relies on many people to touch the campaign. The workflow typically touches so many different people from client to agency to national sales to local markets and back to national sales to local charting and back to local sales and back to national sales and back to agency and ultimately back to the client…phew.  That is a lot of steps and not a lot of time to turn it around.

Automation simplifies this flow.  It puts much of the back and forth into a usable space where details are all combined for the most part.  What is critically missing is that it doesn’t include RFPs and inventory control.  The OOH companies will not release their inventory via an API to let buyers see what is available at the very moment. They have only released unsold space. So a buyer can’t go into their exchange and see space to buy now.

Another concern is that it is mainly only focusing on DOOH. But that only represents roughly 5 percent of the total OOH universe.  We can’t ignore the other 95 percent of inventory that truly doesn’t work so neatly as digital space. Rules aren’t sophisticated enough as well. You can’t account for competitive separation, back-to-back ad plays and full geographical coverage when you allow machines to control the process. It is an on-going workaround that still needs time to perfect.

The buy/sell process, as noted above, will be more streamlined for sure, and that may reduce the amount of people needed on both sides of the desk, but it doesn’t mean you should fire your teams tomorrow. While the process is more efficient, you can’t replace people with machines. The human element is so critical.  Relationships play a major role in the buy/sell process. The discussions back and forth bring so much value that you can’t get from just the numbers. There are certain market nuances and planning criteria that don’t get translated when using a machine. Time saved from the reduction of the busy work though can be re-focused to the strategic planning parts. Discussions open the door for new and exciting options, better and more strategic plans and a fuller understanding of the client’s objectives to really make sure the buy is on point and has the smallest amount of waste and misfires.

As more and more inventory is converted to digital, the need for a more simplified workflow will become increasingly critical. Digital space is going to get increasingly complicated, especially when the space will be opened to day-parting and such.  The media companies are not set up to operate like that, and the time and expense they will realize will be too much to handle.  But it is coming, and it is coming fast, so the industry needs to buckle down and get itself ready for this or they will be left out in the cold.

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Managing Partner
MacDonald Media

Advertising & Brands Council

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