ATS London 2019: what the future holds for AdTech, Programmatic and OOH

OOH’s Programmatic Evolution: Insights from ATS London

When ExchangeWire launched ATS London, an AdTech and Programmatic conference, 10 years ago, the likelihood of having representatives from the Out of Home industry attending would have been a rather outlandish concept. The delegates probably would have assumed we’d gotten lost on a site tour and wandered in after admiring the first ever digital out-of-home screen, but fast forward to 2019 and there is a panel discussion entirely dedicated to understanding what programmatic means for the OOH industry.

Prior to the panel, there were a variety of speakers discussing the hottest topics in AdTech and Programmatic ranging from transparency and attribution modelling to in-housing and the role of what Sir Martin Sorrell termed, the industry ‘Butler’ aka the traditional agency model. There were, however, three key themes which were consistently raised across all the panels and fire-side conversations which have future implications for both Online and OOH:

1. An empty cookie jar

Nearly every panel deliberated over the future of a cookie-less online world. Smart technology led by Apple and Firefox now block third-party cookies by default, and Google Chrome have begun testing the practicality of this advancement.

There are a couple of viable alternative options to cookie based behavioral targeting. Firstly, and perhaps a short term solution, could be that contextual advertising based on keywords and content makes a timely comeback. In the long term however, panelists from companies such as ID5 presented an ambition to build privacy-first solutions that move towards a people-based advertising strategy which does not rely on third-party cookies to track users or gather data. Because of this, there will be a greater value placed on first party data and an increasing demand to easily activate this to target advertiser audiences.

2. Transparency is critical for growth

Sir Martin Sorrell started by stating that in-housing is not theoretical. Clients are increasingly bringing resources in-house to take back control of their content and programmatic strategies. Coupled with AdContraian’s latest provocative newsletter ‘The Conspiracy of Silence’, it seems there are some serious issues with transparency when it comes to programmatic and refreshingly, this was directly addressed throughout the day.

In an article written prior to the event, Ashley MacKenzie, CEO and founder of Fenestra said ‘If you don’t know the true costs involved in programmatic media buying and selling, then it becomes impossible to quantify and compare the value of it.’ It was evident that there needs to be less complexity and a more transparent and regulated supply chain, which companies like Fenestra are looking to tackle with independent AdTech. As the OOH industry becomes increasingly automated, we need to learn from these challenges and set a clear course of action for how we evolve into this landscape.

3. Getting the measure of it

In much the same vein as transparency, measurement was a hot topic. Panels exploring the advent of Addressable TV and Digital Audio provided some insight as to what happens when traditionally offline channels embrace a digital infrastructure.

David Fisher from Discovery described an advertiser who trialled TV and subsequently claimed it didn’t work for them as they were ‘addicted to the drug of direct response’. Similarly on the Digital Audio panel, the speakers unanimously agreed that the majority of their advertisers are looking for brand results but often consider the channel as another digital format which can drive more direct response metrics. Whilst the emergence of AdTech has provided entirely new opportunities, the primary benefits of channels like TV and Digital Audio still play a big part in reaching brand KPI’s and everyone is keen to avoid short-termism.

The lively panel I joined towards the end of the day on ‘What Programmatic Means for OOH’, did well to dig into some of the complexities of two very different industries coming together, but demonstrated more than anything that there is a big education job to be done. As the Out of Home industry pivots into programmatic, there is no doubt that there are benefits and opportunities to leverage automation and data, which we at Talon are actively embracing. Nevertheless we should be exploring solutions that fundamentally provide value for advertisers and lead to long term growth rather than short term gains.

Sophie Pemberton is the Group Strategy Director at Talon Outdoor.