Real-Time With Vistar's Jeremy Ozen On Why Place-Based Is Ready For Programmatic

Last week I posted an article exploring programmatic’s place in place-based media. In it, I stated my belief that, while programmatic trading does exist for place-based media, I don’t think it will command a significant portion of budget until programmatic improves in channels like display and mobile.

But Jeremy Ozen, co-founder of Vistar Media, a location-based video ad platform for programmatic traders, doesn’t believe that has to happen first. He shares his thoughts on the topic below.

RTM Daily: Will some consumers start freaking out as they see more targeted ads (as a result of programmatic trading) step out of the “me zones” — like personal phones or computers — and into the “we zones” — like billboards and radio?

Jeremy Ozen: There's a major difference between the ways we consume media on personal devices and location-based screens, so it follows that there's a major difference in targeting. I would argue that targeting on personal devices can actually feel more invasive, as it is based on insights into an individual consumer -- what they do on their phones, the sorts of products they buy, their personal tastes, etc. In fact we've already seen people wigging out about cookie-based "me" targeting, which runs counter to the hypothesis above.

Privacy advocates should be concerned about the abuse of PII data, which is mitigated when dealing with location-based screens, because the content is meant to target a class of consumer -- "soccer moms" or "business commuters" -- based on patterns gleaned from common movement patterns. So a digital billboard near a school could be tuned to parents of children in certain grades, a communal "we" that is helpful and not intrusive.

RTMD: Some have said place-based media is too difficult to plan and buy. Could programmatic media-buying technologies help solve some those and other challenges?

Ozen: Programmatic technologies already exist for location-based buying. The key to a successful programmatic platform, for this type of media, though, is access to data. Programmatic is not just automated purchasing; it's automating the purchase of correct impressions. Because people exposed to location-based media are often in front of these screens for very short periods of time, it's essential that they're targeted in the right location, at the right time. Data-backed programmatic buying is therefore just about the only way to be successful in these buys.

RTMD: My take was that programmatic needs to spend a bit more time finding its footing in online display, mobile and video before it can truly take hold in what I called more “futuristic” spaces, like digital place-based media or location-based mobile. Do you agree or disagree?

Ozen: It's essential to look at all of these holistically -- especially place/location-based and mobile, which are really two sides of the same coin. The most important aspect of programmatic buying is that it responds to changes in real-time, with little-to-no intervention. This makes it perfect for those mediums that we take with us when we're away from our desks -- necessitating not just a change in content but also a change in context.

Arguably, programmatic for these mediums adds even more value than for online display and video, given its real-world context; serving the right ad to the right consumer when they are in vicinity to the point of purchase can help consumers in a tangible way, as opposed to chasing them all over the Internet just because they abandoned a shopping cart.

RTMD: Could it end up being like Minority Report? That’s what I mean by “futuristic.”

Ozen: Privacy is very important in our industry. Nobody is trying to publicly broadcast your name, interests, behaviors, etc. I made an argument at the iMedia Connection Breakthrough Summit earlier this year that the Minority Report scene you're talking about is inevitable inasmuch as we are moving toward an era where we can better target people where they are, and where they're going, on large screens -- but it seems like you're envisioning a much more obtrusive, and possibly unhelpful, scenario. Again, programmatic, place-based advertising is looking to target classes of consumers based on their location and movement patterns; anything that uses personally identifiable information in the public arena is off the table.

MediaPost: I brought up the difference between “Always On” and “Always Available” to support my theory, but you think that distinction actually does a better job of supporting your own theory. Can you explain?

Ozen: To me, this is actually a perfect example of why we want to make programmatic happen more in location, not less. Imagine you're out shopping: what's more obtrusive? The screen in the mall which, based on passive location information from your device, displays an ad for a relevant new restaurant a few blocks away? Or an ad that pops up on your mobile device when you take it out to look up directions or buy tickets or calculate a tip, based on your own personal device habits?

RTMD: Thank you for your time.

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