Why Transparency Matters as DOOH Dives Deeper into Programmatic


As one of the key emerging channels for advertising, debate has coursed through the industry on how programmatic practices can be implemented within digital out-of-home (DOOH), and whether it is a truly effective solution for the medium. Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Adam Green (pictured below), SVP and GM of Broadsign Reach, discusses the respective roles of each player within the industry in reaching the goal of successful programmatic DOOH.

Programmatic is the best way for advertisers to deliver engaging, relevant ads to the exact target audience with full transparency on both sides of the transaction… or so goes the dream. In reality, programmatic trading often falls comically short of these lofty goals, and digital-out-of-home (DOOH) isn’t immune to this challenge in its embrace of programmatic. Opaque programmatic tools or less than transparent uses of otherwise good ones have long provided cover for a plethora of nefarious activities from gouging to fraud, and advertisers are justifiably fed up with it. P&G’s Marc Pritchard has been the most public voice of this frustration and Uber has added its voice to the chorus, which is steadily gaining steam. As programmatic DOOH evolves, those of us participating must do our part to ensure transparency and fairness don’t give way to opacity and fraud. From buyers to tech developers and publishers, everyone across the ecosystem will have a role to play:

Media buyers
Adam Green

Adam Green, SVP and GM, Broadsign Reach

Buyers pay all the bills in this value chain and their questions and metrics heavily influence how the ecosystem operates. Just as is the case with digital campaigns, buyers need to ask where their content is likely to run or ran; how the impressions will be measured; who are the intermediaries between them and the media owners; and what value each of them provides. They also need to work with the rest of the value chain to determine standards for measurement and pressure for better metrics beyond CPM.

Ad tech

As the primary agents of opacity, ad tech players have perhaps the most obvious role to play. We must provide transparent tools that let buyers know exactly what they’re buying and give sellers control over how their inventory is presented as well as for how much it sells. This will require us to build transparency into our own tools and collaborate to define things like venue taxonomies (i.e. whether the ads will run in office buildings, Times Square, roadside billboards, etc.) and contextual data (i.e. what movie is playing or is the train late). As neither budget source nor media owner, our position in the DOOH value chain is the most tenuous and those of us who don’t provide the required transparency will be rightfully removed from it.


Media owners face possibly the biggest transition as they shift away from selling physical placements for long time periods, toward selling contexts one ad play at a time. Many need to change how their audiences are measured as their existing solutions lack the granularity needed to determine the audience for individual ad plays. This will require significant investment in cameras, IR counters, wifi-sniffers or other technologies. At the same time they are investing in digitizing their networks, re-training or hiring new skillsets, all while not overly impacting their existing business, which keeps the lights on. It’s a very tall order, but those who do it will be able to compete for a share of omnichannel budgets while those who don’t will be relegated to campaigns targeted solely on a reach or specific location basis. Much like buyers, media owners also need to demand transparency from their partners in all aspects from how their bid requests are “decorated” to their partners’ business models and fee structures.

It's up to the industry

Successful programmatic advertising is about reaching the right audience with creative that fosters brand loyalty, not finding the cheapest CPMs whether it’s on DOOH, mobile or desktop. Ad dollars can go a lot further when all of the cards are laid out on the table, and while this may create more work up-front for advertisers in terms of being more scrupulous, they’ll see better results in the long run, because they’re targeting the right audience in the right context. Across digital mediums, not just DOOH, publishers and ad tech companies have a big role to play in effecting change; they need to work together to find ways to define, identify and prevent fraudulent activity. The IAB has made great strides in establishing viability standards to help solve the problem, but it’s up to the industry as a whole to build upon these and move toward greater transparency. DOOH has a lot to contribute to the conversation, but can also learn from the ways online and mobile have started to address the challenge.