Matthew Keegan
Oct 3, 2022

Google enters DOOH space: What does this mean for marketers?

Not content with being a leading player in the online advertising market, Google has announced they are entering the OOH market too. But is this a welcome move by the tech giant?

Digital billboards at a metro station in Gangnam, Seoul (Shutterstock)
Digital billboards at a metro station in Gangnam, Seoul (Shutterstock)

Last month Google announced that it was making digital out-of-home (OOH) ads available to all users of its advertising marketplace Display & Video 360 (DV360). Now marketers will be able to buy ads on digital screens in public places including stadiums, airports, bus stops, shopping centres, elevators, taxis, and more through Google’s one-stop-shop DV360 marketplace.

A good move by Google or a step too far? Some critics voiced concern that while Google owning a huge chunk of the online advertising market is one thing, owning the whole advertising market is another thing. How will this latest move from Google be received by other players in the (OOH) advertising space?

"We feel positive about this long-anticipated entry into OOH from Google," says Ben Milne, head of OOH at Dentsu International. "Our focus working with them will be to ensure the solutions they bring to market are aimed at helping the sector grow and demonstrate the great results OOH can provide for brands."

JCDecaux Singapore welcomes the move and believes that with Google launching DOOH ads on their programmatic trading platform, more investment in DOOH can be expected—LEDs, screens technology, data to boost programmatic capabilities—which will ultimately unleash the potential of DOOH.

"DOOH is the future of advertising. Things are changing, there is the new sharp force of a cookieless future which will fundamentally disrupt digital advertising since Google has  announced the elimination of third-party cookies,” said a spokesperson for JCDecaux Singapore.

“With Google's DV360 already partnering with our exclusive supply-side platform VIOOH, JCDecaux Singapore looks forward to offering advertisers 120 million monthly impressions across 270 screens at Singapore Changi Airport, Ion Orchard, Jewel Changi Airport, Raffles City, and bus shelters island-wide very soon."

Sally Lawrence, group director of media at digital marketing agency Enigma, believes it was an inevitable move from Google. "Naturally there is great benefit to those already buying into the Google stack with it now being more of a one-stop-shop," says Lawrence. "While there are advantages to activating a multi-channel campaign through one platform, Google is slightly on the back foot in regard to the platform features specific to outdoor trading. Competing platforms have mapping capabilities that Google would need to build out to truly compete in this space."

Combining the best of OOH and digital?

In a blog post marking the announcement of their entry into the DOOH space, Google's DV360 product manager Shreya Mathur said she believes the move will combine the best of out-of-home and digital.

"With digital OOH ads in DV360, brands can reach people on screens of all shapes and sizes," said Mathur. "And, it can be done rapidly and efficiently. Marketers can activate, pause, and optimise DOOH campaigns in near real time. They can tackle everything from strategy and activation to reporting and optimisation all in one place."

Google’s DV360 already currently partners with various other ad exchanges such as Hivestack, Magnite, PlaceExchange, Ströer SSP, VIOOH and Vistar Media, which give access to major OOH media owners’ inventory, including ClearChannel, JCDecaux, Intersection, and Lamar and Ströer.

In addition, Google’s centralised marketplace (DV360) allows such inventory to be bid on programmatically, which Mathur says provides marketers increased flexibility for their ad campaigns. For example, a fast food restaurant can quickly advertise on a billboard in a business district during lunch hour, but later that day the same billboard could be used to promote a performance at a nearby concert venue.

"Programmatic DOOH provides flexibility," says Greg Paull, co-founder & principal at R3. "Advertisers will also get a level of transparency in trading not previously available, which will challenge buying behaviour within OOH."

Lawrence of Enigma is excited by this news and its future potential. "The ultimate is a programmatic powerhouse, that once all channels can be traded programmatically, would allow us to execute a true audience led, multi-screen campaign, through one platform," she says. "That is revolutionary. Whilst the measurement question is a whole other conversation, having everything through one platform would make that challenge somewhat easier to solve."

L-R, clockwise: Sally Lawrence; Greg Paull, Melanie Lindquist, Andrew Murray


Will personalised DOOH ads become a reality?

With Google knowing almost everything about everyone these days, some have wondered how long it will be before we can expect personalised out-of-home ads now they are entering the DOOH space. For instance, if you Googled 'great lunch spots', you can expect to see physical ads for… great lunch spots as you walk around.

"The idea makes for great conversation but it's not commercially viable," says R3's Paull. "Remember that DOOH relies on screens, which there are only so many of. There's also the factor of display time. An advertiser will get higher ROI on spend if their advertising speaks to a collective subset of people versus an audience of one."

In fact, Google has been clear that the DOOH ads placed through its DV360 platform will not be personalised, and they will not use individual identifiers or any user location data. Instead, advertisers will be able to reach people based on contextual information of the screen location, like a traditional OOH ad, but with the flexibility and ease of programmatic.

"Google has been clear they are not bringing their data to the party yet," says Milne from Dentsu. "OOH is inherently a one-to-many medium, with limited exceptions such as screens in the back of taxis, and therefore this contextually relevant messaging rather than truly personalised one-to-one marketing is more suited to the medium."

And others agree that personalised DOOH ads are as unlikely as they sound, and would defeat the very nature of what OOH advertising is all about.

"OOH has always been a mass audience driver delivering scale and impact for brands and was never meant to be a one-to-one medium," says Simon Reid, national head of partnerships, Initiative Australia. "I love the idea of using localised creative recalibrated towards the search history of passers-by, however creative will be all important to capture the positive wastage created in this one-to-many channel."

And JCDecaux Singapore believes the inherent beauty of OOH still lies in its one-to-many reach. "While we can definitely expect to see more contextual OOH ads, as adtech enables speed to screen, the inherent beauty of OOH still lies in its one-to-many reach in trusted public spaces. [This is why] OOH is a top-of-funnel tool for brand-building and lifting awareness,” a spokesperson from the company says.

Milne adds that though personalised OOH ads are unlikely, he's not ruling it out just yet. "Through context the ad is experienced by consumers today in a way that feels relevant to them, even if not fully personalised, but this isn’t to say the balance won’t shift, it might, but we don’t see it happening anytime soon,” he says.

Besides, there's always a limit on how ‘personal’ people will like their digital OOH advertising, given it could easily cross the line if people feel that their privacy has been breached.

"If the personalisation is too targeted, it could all feel like the movie Minority Report has become reality," says Andrew Murray, head of trading at UM Australia. "And I feel that this would be too much and could see negative impacts on our clients and their campaigns."

R3's Paull says this is not quite Minority Report advertising, yet. "There's no need to panic about personal data being used to customise ads—but being able to use contextual information to run more relevant versions of an ad will definitely strike a chord with advertisers. They do it online. Why not do it outdoors? Consumers will appreciate whatever benefits them, which is better, more relevant and timely deals and information,” he says.

Is DOOH a good fit for all?

Online fashion retailer ASOS conducted a geo experiment with JCDecaux’s measurement partners to evaluate the impact of DOOH ads on brand metrics. According to Google, they observed a 14% increase in brand awareness and a 22% increase in brand consideration in exposed vs control areas.

“Making our OOH inventory available through demand side platforms (DSPs) such as DV360 enables marketers to plan and optimise all digital channels in one place. It gives brands like ASOS more control which can improve brand and performance metrics,” said head of programmatic at JCDecaux UK Dom Kozak, who worked with fashion retailer ASOS on a DOOH campaign using DV360.

But some warn that DOOH might not be the best fit for all and could limit performance if not carefully considered.

"From a marketing perspective, this specific targeting is only one tactic of campaign strategy as it omits up to 80% of available OOH inventory including classic OOH," says Melanie Lindquist, APAC managing director at Talon Outdoor. "In APAC, some markets only have 10 to 12% DOOH inventory, and not all of it is available programmatically via supply-side platforms (SSPs)."

Lindquist adds: "Buyers also risk investing their budget in only precise targeting without the foundations of broadcast marketing with effective reach and frequency. This can result in underperformance in key marketing metrics including awareness, attention and consideration."

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