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Can automated media buying models become the norm for DOOH in India?

Industry leaders say though brands, media owners and agencies are realizing the importance of automation, the adoption is fairly slow

by Noel Dsouza
Published - Jan 21, 2021 8:29 AM  |  6 min read

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The digital out-of-home (DOOH) market has been picking up in India. The spike in growth was amplified when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world last year. In the current market scenario, tracking of campaigns and data insights have become paramount, making DOOH offerings even more appealing for marketers. Another trend that picked up during the pandemic is contextual advertising, which allows for targeted and personalized content.

With this increase in the appeal of DOOH and contextual advertising, an automated media buying model would be an ideal pathway to success. However, can automated media buying models see a ray of hope in a market like India which is still trying to navigate the obstacles of government restrictions when it comes to DOOH media sites?

An automated media buying approach will allow brands to structure a timing for their campaigns based on the data of their targeted audience. Instead of having a 24x7 approach with low-impact visibility, the campaigns will be generated according to the audience data and the context of the ad. 

e4m spoke to DOOH some leaders to understand first-hand if an automated media buying model for media sites can come into play in the near future.

Automation, the way forward?

According to Rishabh Mehta, Founder & CEO, LOCAD, DOOH itself is relatively new for India, and so, a complete automation of media buying will take much more time in terms of adoption in India.

“Though brands, media owners and agencies are realizing the importance of data and automation, the adoption is fairly slow. But we are confident it will only grow stronger moving forward,” says Mehta.

Gulab Patil, Founder, CEO, Lemma, feels automated media buying models isn’t just a norm but a natural progression of events. “Every manual process today is evolving into automated systems across the board. Automated buying in OOH would bring in ease in many of the manual processes that can be avoided by a simple platform upgrade or integration. Although such platforms are currently being experimented on in the digital OOH space, once this system is perfected, it can be extended to OOH sites.”

“Automated buying brings in a lot of benefits, right from an aggregated view of multiple screens to standardized pricing and much more. This progression is indicative of the direction in which the OOH industry stakeholders would gravitate towards, i.e., automation in every process, right from planning, buying, execution, reporting to measurement,” Patil adds.

The recent growth within OOH has been heavily reliant on digitisation of assets, which stimulated an increase in both supply and demand for this medium. With Covid-19 accelerating the digital shift and marketers shifting focus from vanilla branding to ROI and conversions, DOOH is all set to grow at a considerable rate. With its key currencies -- accountability, speed, flexibility and adaptability-- DOOH, in the new decade, will integrate more with digital buys and increase OOH advertising’s market share in the overall media mix.

Sharing his perspective, Gautam Bhirani, Managing Director, Eyetalk Media Ventures, says “Automation of buying and delivery provides buyers and sellers with a powerful new way to operate, plan, negotiate, deliver and report all in one place automatically. It’s a tool that makes the time-consuming and error-prone manual processes required to book OOH media a thing of the past. The process not only brings transparency but also brings standardization and closes the reporting loop.”

 “With DOOH taking the big leap and integrating with digital advertising, automation is the way forward. However, the transition of one to many medium comes with its complexities,” Bhirani adds.

Speaking about DOOH networks and infrastructure in India, Bhirani shares, “From flawless connectivity, advanced processors to operating software, systems are needed on both sides to make both automated guaranteed and real-time bidding truly live. This also means migrating media owners from spreadsheets and phone calls to a fully live system that delivers costs and availability in real-time, and then accepts bookings from an automated buyer.”


Automated DOOH & contextual advertising

Patil shares, “Automation in buying will certainly boost concepts of audience buying, contextual ads and real-time ads for the sheer fact that it would allow brands to cherry-pick locations that enhance the media outcome with these additional targeting parameters & data-driven ad serving. Traditional approach of bulk buying has gone redundant and customized approach reaching more relevant audiences is the default strategy adopted by most marketers.”

Mehta adds, “Planning has now become more data-driven and advertisers are paying due attention before selecting sites. We have worked with several large brands over the last few weeks and have demonstrated the value of data-driven plans vs adhoc gut-based planning and buying.”

Hope for automated models

“Automation will bring in greater transparency and accountability. However, the effectiveness of this is completely in the hands of all three stakeholders i.e. media owners, brands, agency and the key is adoption,” says Mehta.

“As far as DOOH is concerned, it will be more of a direct automated model than just programmatic at this stage. Till the time the industry as a whole does not move towards a common system, complete automation is very difficult. We will see many hybrid and closed models emerging wherein automated data-driven systems will be used as a means to justify the selection along with some traditional buying habits. Once the number of real DOOH assets, like sites at airports, malls etc, increase, programmatic will have a huge potential. What we are doing in India is far ahead of many other countries across LATAM and SEA in terms of technology adoption and so a huge opportunity is waiting to unfold,” shares Mehta.

Bhirani, speaking about the industry’s acceptability towards automation, says, “Despite being in the centre stage for a decade, pDOOH is still an innovation for agencies and advertisers. Both programmatic and automation in respect to DOOH is still grey as teams within the ecosystem struggle to accept and adapt the once offline medium as a new digital channel. The industry needs to come together and embrace this opportunity. Location data has been paramount, as it allows us to leverage the tools we have built for other channels and apply them to DOOH.”

Talking about the offerings EVP is providing in the automation space, Bhirani says, “At Eyetalk Media Ventures, we are all set to launch our platform which brings planning, buying, optimization and content delivery on a single platform, simplifying complex processes which have been hampering the medium’s adaption. Our platform will create an interactive, easy e-shopping-like experience layered by data integrating with all our networks and will be available to brands from March 2021.”

Patil adds, “There is a high demand for such a solution in the OOH ecosystem and is already in use at many of the leading agencies. OOH stakeholders are working towards enhancing the buying platform to a more rounded solution that serves as a single point in helping planning, execution and reporting. Brands and agencies, in a world with the pandemic, are focused on ROI and appreciate any form of intelligence that serves this purpose.”

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