Wall Street Journal Office Net Embraces RTB, Part Of Out-Of-Home Industry Shift

Digital out-of-home media are taking a page out of digital online media’s playbook, including the development of a so-called “real-time bidding” or programmatic marketplace utilizing online exchanges and ad networks that tie directly into ad agency “trading desks.” But unlike some premium online publishers who like to keep programmatic trading at an arm’s length for fear it might commoditize the value of their inventory, some of out-of-home’s most premium players are embracing it. The latest example is the Wall Street Journal Office Network, which today unveils its “2.0” version, which will enable advertisers and agencies to buy real-time avails via programmatic buying exchange Vistar Media.

“There have been aggregators in digital out-of-home before,” says Jim Harris, CEO of the Wall Street Journal Office Network, which distributes video programming and advertising to office-based businesses. Harris was referring to a spate of digital out-of-home buying platforms such as Adcentricity and SeeSaw Networks, which tried to replicate many of the online industry’s electronic buying and selling mechanisms, but stopped short of the kind of real-time bidding structure that has emerged in the online industry.



“Why am I not freaking out about this,” Harris adds, when asked about the resistance of some premium online publishers to embrace that logic. “Because there are still going to be customers who are primarily idea-driven, and those kinds of deals cannot be done via a programmatic platform.”

On the flip side, Harris says programmatic buying is being driven by important clients, especially the big agency holding companies, which have invested significant sums in people and resources to build agency trading desks specifically to leverage real-time bidding in the belief that it will not be just for online media, but ultimately all electronically tradable media inventory.

It wasn’t clear at presstime what agencies are currently able to trade via Vistar, but Harris said it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, because networks first have to make their inventory available before agencies are in a position to buy it that way.

Vistar claims to be working with 13 digital out-of-home media networks -- including the AdSpace Digital Mall Network, Gas Station TV, and Zoom Media -- but does not list any agencies as partners. Spafax, the WPP digital out-of-home media-buying specialist that has been developing an out-of-home equivalent of an online industry “DSP,” or demand-side platform, is believed to be working with Vistar, but that could not be confirmed at presstime.

The Wall Street Journal Office Network’s news comes on the heels of today’s Digital Place-Based Advertising Association conference in New York, and includes other significant digital upgrades to its platform and ad formats, including Interactive Advertising Bureau “standard ad units,” which should make it easy to integrate with agency trading desks.

The digital upgrade follows its hiring earlier this year of Margit Kittridge as executive director-marketing and digital business development from Omnicom’s Annalect Group, where she was client strategy director.

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