Programmatic DOOH placement may be key to recovery

According to eMarketer, the roll-out and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines will also shape DOOH investment.

After Canadian OOH spending declined 30% last year compared to 2019, eMarketer postulates that a critical part of the recovery for the OOH ad market this year will be a greater reliance on DOOH and programmatic placement of ads in venues like airports.

The research firm’s Digital Outlook for Canada report estimates that OOH spending was forecast $644 million last year, down from $919.4 million in 2019. It doesn’t believe it will reach those pre-pandemic levels until 2023, with spending projections of $740.6 million this year. Spending was down by more than half year-over-year from July to September alone, far outpacing the declines seen on other platforms.

But eMarketer believes that programmatic buying of DOOH ad inventory will “claim a larger share than the small slice it holds today” – currently between 3% and 5%, according to Roseanne Caron, who recently retired from COMMB – as the buying method is well-suited to handle the disruptions brought on by the pandemic.

“Compared with traditional billboards, digital screens offer greater flexibility to adapt messaging and creative on the fly. What’s more, programmatic buying allows greater flexibility in budget expenditure, which is especially valuable when foot traffic in public places is directly related to public policies to protect against the coronavirus,” writes senior analyst Paul Briggs.

Despite the fact that worldwide passenger travel was down 60% last year, OOH marketing experts say programmatic DOOH enables brands to have greater flexibility and control over their messaging in areas like airports. “They can do that with digital more than they can with static out-of-home,” Caron told eMarketer. “Advertisers are going to be very cautious going forward. They want to know they have control and flexibility if they need to change their messaging on the fly or respond to something that’s going on.”

For instance, during the first wave of the pandemic in April, eyeball traffic dropped by roughly 95% in dense urban settings across key OOH markets in Canada.

The efficacy of the various COVID-19 vaccines, and the uncertainty around that, is another factor that will impact DOOH investment, Briggs notes. If the vaccines are proven to be effective, “DOOH investments could accelerate again later in 2021.”