Outfront pairs with Vistar to make digital inventory more accessible

The partnership will open Vistar's Canadian inventory up to U.S. buyers, and vice versa, which CEO Michele Erskine says is relevant in an increasingly borderless world.

OOH company Outfront Media has upped its programmatic capabilities, partnering with platform Vistar Media, in order to make its inventory more accessible to buyers.

Outfront’s 200 digital billboards are now available through Vistar’s supply-side platform, with further expansion planned for 2020.

It’s a far cry from Outfront’s early days of digital, says CEO Michele Erskine. When it first introduced digital OOH, it simply rotated through creative no different than rotating static boards. “We didn’t really understand what they could really do at that point,” she says. Now, programmatic capabilities allow Outfront’s inventory to be purchased strategically based on factors like audience and demographics, and can help buyers plan campaigns that have true paths and journeys, she says. “I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what the complete transformation of out-of-home could look like.”

Outfront signalled its commitment to boosting its digital capabilities earlier this year with the hiring of Brendan Dillon as director of digital transformation. Dillon’s experience was more firmly rooted in digital – with past experience at Juice Mobile and Star Media Group – than pure OOH. It’s exactly what Erskine was looking for after it first added programmatic capabilities in 2019.

“The overarching theme for Outfront Canada, as things become more digital and everything moves to a more programmatic space, is that we want to make our inventory as discoverable as possible, while becoming as buyer-agnostic as possible,” Dillon tells¬†MiC.¬†“This will give us a ton of new demand, and they [Vistar] have a unique value proposition with their tech stack. A lot of buyers use their tech.”

For Vistar, it represents an opportunity to expand further into Canada after years of foothold in the U.S. While Vistar has a Canadian presence, Canadian managing director Scott Mitchell says its footprint has been much smaller here than it is in the U.S.

And, Erskine says, it’s a well-suited fit for Outfront. Despite being a Canadian company, it also has a U.S. presence, and listing all of its inventory on one central digital platform will allow for more cross-border campaigns, allowing Canadian brands to extend their campaigns south of the border (and vice versa). “We’re going to be more discoverable outside of Canada.”

For U.S. brands looking to advertise in Canada, Erskine points directly to the increasingly important ecommerce category. “Ecommerce is facilitating so many things these days, and that technology really allows borders to disappear. Programmatic platforms make it much easier to buy global campaigns.