Such an announcement is huge for those of us who live and breathe programmatic day in and day out. If a company with the clout and capital of Google is moving from a direct-buy model to a programmatic one, surely other giants will follow. And more than that, they will create a demand for programmatic on platforms like digital-out-of-home (DOOH) or smartTV — places where programmatic’s reach has been small in the past, but is now quickly growing.
That programmatic buying is rare in certain media is not surprising, when you consider that every digital platform has its own nuances that must be considered when designing, building, and deploying ads for it. Desktop has a large screen but no portability. Mobile has a much smaller screen, but goes everywhere with its users. So a location-enabled campaign that works well on an iPhone would be ineffective on desktop, and a long-playing video ad with a lot of detail would likely be better suited to a larger desktop screen.
If it took us 15 years to reach the point where we could programmatically target individual impressions in a way that was appropriate for each of these media, so other digital media — especially those that will be seen by multiple consumers at the same time — have some catching up to do.
The best way to do this would be to identify how those platforms not commonly being served programmatic ads work with the ones that do. Because so many television viewers watch shows while also looking at their phones or computers, ads on smartTVs can be purchased programmatically based on information from all of the devices in the room where the TV is located. DOOH presents the same opportunity, but on an even larger scale: instead of five or six people in a living room, it’s dozens of people in front of a digital billboard or electronic display at a bus stop.
And because DOOH signage is visible to consumers who are on the go, programmatically targeting this medium can place it at the upper end of the mobile funnel, reaching an audience that is out and about, with content relevant to what they’re seeing on their mobile devices, only on a (much) larger screen. In her interview, Twohill expressed surprise that this programmatic activation of billboards was still so uncommon, and “[called] for innovation in a space that ‘sorely needs it.’”
Yes, it’s perhaps hard to imagine buying an ad meant for a large audience in the same way one buys an ad meant for an individual, but we should focus on programmatic delivering more efficient (D)OOH campaigns that are relevant to the most people possible, by using vast amounts of available data to inform and trigger ad buys to reach specific audiences.