DOOH industry moves to standardize ad inventory

Six leading players in the highly competitive digital out-of-home space this week announced an initiative to standardize descriptions of screen and venue for ad inventory. This is aimed at reducing confusion, especially in the programmatic space where multiple inventories sold by different SSPs can describe the same opportunities in different ways — e.g. “retail” and “mall.”

The six companies currently involved are Adomni, Broadsign, Place Exchange, Verizon Media, VIOOH, and Vistar Media. Leslie Lee of Vistar Media, speaking on behalf of the group, explained the need for standards.

A free-for-all. “It was a bit of a free-for-all in terms of how a media owner would describe their inventory,” she said, “and that caused confusion on the buyer side of the equation. Instead of describing it as ‘a screen in a mall,’ one provider would call it ‘a screen in a food court,’ one would say ‘this is a retail location,’ one would say ‘a shopping center.’ They are all describing the same thing, but it made it hard for a buyer who wasn’t deeply familiar with out-of-home to understand what was out there and what they could be purchasing.”

It’s a virtue of OOH, of course, that there are so many different types of inventory: standardization has been less of an issue for display advertising on personal devices. “There are only so many differences in where on a browser an ad can be,” Lee ageed, “but even in the online world they did go through a phase when they had to standardize the size of the ad units; once they did that, it was simple for a buyer to understand. One of things that so unique and great about out-of-home is that there’s a huge variety of environments. A screen in an elevator is very different from one at an electric vehicle charging station, or a mass spectacular billboard.”

A cross-industry initiative? Strong though the line-up of involved companies is, there are other major players in the DOOH space. Is there a hope they will come onboard? “The goal is to have the standard be available and adopted by as broad a section of the industry as possible,” Lee said. “There are additional platforms that are already working with the group and reviewing the standards, so it seems like there will be some further adoption. The standard will be published, because we want to make it as easy as possible for all other platforms to adopt this.”

Lee describes the initiative as “fairly advanced.” An initial standard is already publicly available and in use. The project has been running for about a year, and has involved consultation with media owners. “The idea is to continue to review and update it as new inventory types emerge,” Lee said.

An ongoing fluidity in the standard is likely necessary, as innovation in DOOH inventory continues, with digital advertising continually appearing in new and unexpected spaces. “With the technology that’s emerging, there are so many more screens and devices that are getting connected to the internet. I would imagine we’ll have a couple more categories added to this even within the next year.”

Why we care. There’s a need for standardization in so many areas of martech — from identity resolution to video metrics — that it’s refreshing to see practical steps being taken. “Because out-of-home in general is somewhat under-invested in — there’s more opportunity for brands than they’re taking advantage of — the whole industry tends to come together because that’s the important conversation,” said Lee.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today.

About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech Today. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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