Out-of-home communications agency Posterscope is preparing to launch what it says is the first real-time trading platform for digital billboards. The platform was born out of a partnership between Posterscope and location-based technology company Vistar Media, with contributions from a variety of OOH media owners.

James Davies
Posterscope’s James Davies

Posterscope will use Vistar’s digital OOH real-time buying platform as a way to offer brands greater audience targeting capabilities, while growing the OOH market by opening up more online budgets to the medium.

Considering the recent growth of real-time bidding and its expansion to mobile, Posterscope’s decision to take it into the DOOH space may well be prudent. Posterscope’s CSO James Davies and Vistar’s Jeremy Ozen offered a number of reasons for their respective confidence about combining the newest method of placing ads (RTB) with one of the oldest (billboards).

GeoMarketing: What prompted the launch of your trading platform for digital billboards? Why did you decide to now was the right moment?

James Davies: Well, multiple stakeholders were involved in wanting to develop [the platform], but they all needed to get aligned, so that took quite a long time. Really, we just wanted to get it to market as quickly as possible once that happened.

But more generally, the reasoning behind [the decision] was that the amount of interest and focus on real-time marketing from both clients and agencies is increasing very, very quickly. We felt that for the out-of-home medium to be able to capitalize on that was becoming increasingly important. We felt that we needed to have a scale proposition really that meets that client demand.

What do you think is the demand for real-time in billboards? Is this as a continuation of what’s already happening online?

Jeremy Ozen
Vistar’s Jeremy Ozen

Davies: Yes, and it’s also a product of the fact that brands in general are starting to operate their marketing in a more agile way. One of the motivators in doing this was to be able to align digital billboards with online marketing efforts — making it easier really for agencies to think about the two at the same time and about how they might compliment each other, and activate them in as seamless a way as possible.

But, overall, doing this with OOH wasn’t necessarily due to a very explicit demand from clients. It was that we knew that this is a trend that’s going on across media in general. We felt that we needed to be part of that.

What categories and brands are you mostly dealing with? Who do you see this appealing to?

Davies: I think it’s pretty broad. Jeremy, you’ll have a view on this as well, I’m sure, but we work with an incredibly diverse portfolio of brands, everything from finance to alcohol. I don’t think that we’ll see a complete polarization to certain types of brands… there are so many different applications that you can come up with. One of the reasons that we think this is so interesting is because it should relate quite universally.

Jeremy Ozen: This could appeal to anyone trying to do location-based mobile advertising, because this is a way to reach people on the go using location data. This is just stretching it out a bigger format screen to reach them. I think it will probably see a lot of success in the retail, QSR, casual dining categories, but could also sell lots of CPG, etc. I don’t think this will be confined to any one thing.

In doing this, do you view yourself as an “out-of-home demand-side platform?” Or is this more of a marketplace where buyers and sellers will transact?

Ozen: Ultimately, I would say, from a technology standpoint, that we operate as a marketplace.

[But] it took a while for DSPs and the [supply-side platform] piece to separate, and we’re in a stage where, in our work, it hasn’t separated. We are operating on both sides.

Davies: And, for us, Posterscope is essentially a media and communications planning and buying agency. This launch doesn’t change our status in that respect — we’re still an agency but working on this as a partner to deliver what our clients are expecting.

What is the benefit of OOH to physical retailers? And why do you think they’re going to want these real-time capabilities?

Ozen: Coming from an agency, I think being able to think about multiple connection opportunities centered in one location in a very integrated way is quite powerful. In doing so, you might decide that what you really want is a bit of a combination of channels in a particular location to increase performance. That might be deliberately serving up your display ads in the same time and place that you’re serving a digital format and have those two essentially increasing the effectiveness of each other. Likewise, you might decide to the extreme opposite.

I think this is really about having more opportunity and ability influence people at a particular location, which, as we know, is very important. [You’re using] lots of tools and using OOH as one of them for a specific reason: for stature, impact, etc.

What are some of your other plans as we head into 2015?

Davies: For us, having more and more inventory traded in real-time in this way is certainly part of our agenda. And as I mentioned at the beginning, what we’re really interested in driving this is scale. Clients want to be able to do this sort of thing at scale.

Secondly, we want to bring more and more data sources into the mix. I think we’ll all be focused on time to reach that as much as possible as time goes on and as more data becomes available.

Ozen: I would add more data sets that allow us clear connection between what we’re doing and traditional digital channels. [We want] to be able to follow a single consumer across their path on desktop, on mobile, and whatever streams that they pass in the physical [and digital] worlds.