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Jan. 31, 2023

The Programmatic Primer 101 - Episode 98 Recap Of Brooke Ermogenis, Founder of DOOHX.io

The Programmatic Primer 101 - Episode 98 Recap Of Brooke Ermogenis, Founder of DOOHX.io

Listen to the original episode here:


Learn about the advent of advertising on the internet and the very first banner ad:


And check out the academy for all things DOOH launched by Brooke.


Lastly, make sure to connect with Brooke on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/brooke-ermogenis/

Looking for your next job in OOH? Start here: www.oohired.com


Welcome to OOH Insider, the first podcast made just for media and marketing executives about how to create alchemy in the real world - blending marketing art and marketing science to create brand experiences that drive impact you can measure.

My name is Tim Rowe and for the past three years, I’ve been interviewing industry experts for their unique insight on this topic and today’s recap is of episode 98 Brooke Ermogenis, creator of doohx.io, the first online learning platform dedicated to educating on all things DOOH and Programmatic DOOH.

I’m just gonna get this out of the way now, this episode is required listening if you have any interest in a long career in OOH. It is the best episode in the entire catalogue of the show about programmatic, hands-down. 

I’ll link to it in the show notes, but let’s unpack what I learned from Brooke in this conversation.

First and foremost, what is programmatic digital out of home?

Part of the problem is in the name itself.

Out of Home is the only category that defines itself by what it isn’t, making it incredibly broad, as we well know. 

And programmatic is a way of trading, thus making “programmatic digital out of home” a noun and a verb, at the same time.

It’s both a thing, a classification, a category, and a way of doing something, which makes it inherently muddy to begin with.

So, let’s just think of programmatic going forward in this episode as a means of transacting. You can still go down the road to Walmart to buy socks and pay cash, or you can have them automatically delivered every 6 months on Amazon subscription.

One is the traditional way of buying and the other is programmatic. There are advantages to both ways of buying, so it’s important to understand the pro’s and con’s of each. 

And according to Brooke, 95% of the revenue coming from programmatic buying is coming from non-traditional buyers, that is, brands who have never bought any sort of out of home before.

That makes it particularly challenging because digital out of home is NOT like the other forms of media they are buying programmatically. Brooke and I talk specifically about the flaws in the impression-buying model and discuss per-play buying.

The education gap though isn’t something that’s going to be overcome in just one sitting.  That goes for both sides of the equation, buy and sell side. 

For buyers, think about buying digital out of home via programmatic means as a whole new medium. How would you approach a new medium?

You’d likely start by trying to do the same types of campaigns you’ve done before. Trying out different platforms to find which one you like best and offers you the greatest competitive advantage with the greatest ease of use.

After getting comfortable with seeing what you’ve traditionally done work in this new environment, start to develop some things to test. Consider how the tools at your fingertips can be used to choose inventory. Pretty quickly you’ll find your planning methodology start to evolve to include the new things you’re learning, which will help you to reimagine or rekindle old ideas too.

For sellers, it’d be good to go back and research the advent of display advertising on the internet in the mid 90’s. When the first display ads were run on the internet, the website publishers were literally printing out server logs to show advertisers when the pixel fired of the actual ad being delivered to a web browser. 

And for the most part, that’s still true for digital out of home. Media owners are providing multi-page reports from a computer showing the date time stamp of when the ad played on the respective billboard.

That’s fine and all, but can’t we do better? It’s 2023 and we’re delivering Proof of Performance for digital out of home the same way that the internet was delivering their POP almost 30 years ago. Three decades.

Playlogs are table stakes for a direct buy, but programmatic could be a step in the right direction of the way things ought to be. I’m going to use the word programmatic here to mean the actual delivery of the ads to the screens. Right? Programmatic is a way of trading, a way of transacting, and part of that transaction is getting the thing you paid for, here I’m talking about getting the ad to the screen. So think about the delivery of the ad when I’m saying programmatic here. Why not solve for “is my ad playing?” by delivering your digital campaigns programmatically? 

It’s an automatic step up from play logs to the pretty dashboard of your preferred demand side platform. Insights into delivery, more control over the same inventory you’re typically buying traditionally. If your ad isn’t playing, you’re not paying for it, so when a screen goes down, a billboard goes out, you’ll likely know before even the media owner because you’ll see your ads aren’t delivering.

So think about this timeline, we just agreed that proof of performance for digital Out of Home is in the mid 90’s of the internet. Despite that, we’ve got this new way of buying and delivering, called Programmatic, which may conceptually date back to the mid 90’s, has really been adopted at scale with the advent of Facebook and Google ads, so 2007/2008.

So you’ve got a format that is operating in the 90’s wanting to transact like it’s 2023, what’s the worst that could happen? Mass confusion? Oh.

That was a little bit of a rant but it’s important. This may be the second most important episode on programmatic for digital out of home, so I want to make sure we hit everything that’s coming to mind.

Okay, so how do we start really adding jet fuel to the programmatic equation?

By creating a feedback loop. If you’re a buyer, be testing. Be interviewing DSPs with the intention of committing to one and learning it. To learning it and providing meaningful feedback because you have a great relationship. Get your clients, the actual brands themselves, on the phone with the DSP, find out what they want and need. I still see A LOT of stuff being built off assumptions instead of insights and that’s fine when you’re starting out, but we’ve gotta create tighter feedback loops and that’s for everybody.

If you’re a media owner, Brooke says to think of Supply side platforms, SSPs, like stores. I’m adding this part - so think like a brand trying to break into retail: you want to be on as many store shelves as possible. 

It may be a pain in the ass, but if you have digital inventory or plan on adding digital inventory, you have to become a master of the SSPs the same way that DTC brands have to learn shopify, amazon, walmart, all of the platforms.

SSPs are your store windows. It makes you available to an agency in Finland who doesn’t know anything about you or your network because you reach 35-42 year old moms. If you’re still thinking about SSPs as competitors that you need to choose between, you are behind the game.

This was another really important concept that stood out to me and that is that programmatic digital out of home IS NOT remnant advertising. Though remnant space can sometimes be bought programmatically. We’ve gotta stop treating programmatic as something that is of lesser value. It’s not. It’s value comes from it’s utility and it’s as useful as you want it to be, or not.

One of the most common questions about programmatic buying is “can I go see my ad?” or sometimes you get it after the fact and it’s more like “I didn’t see my ad, this stuff doesn’t work”. Hopefully you’re addressing this up one up front.

We’re talking about programmatic as a way of buying, right? Well, the question to answer to determine if programmatic is right for you is - how often do you want to see your ad?

If the answer is “whenever I go there to see it playing”, then you should definitely NOT buy programmatically. However, if your answer is more like “well, I’m trying to reach business professionals who ride their bike to work in NYC in the morning and on days its raining, I know they take public transit so I’d like to reach them there whenever it rains”...if that’s your answer, then programmatic is exactly what you’re looking for.

So here’s the short list of takeaways from the conversation about programmatic with Brooke, which is linked in the show notes, along with her online academy, an article about display advertising in the 90’s and a couple of other things, here are the takeaways…

  • Programmatic is a way to buy and deliver advertising on digital formats
  • Not all digital space is available to buy programmatically
  • If you’re a media owner, supply side platforms, ssps are your store windows - get your products in as many as possible if you want to make more money
  • Programmatic digital out of home isn’t remnant space but remnant can sometimes be bought programmatically. 

And I want to leave you off with this story about Google Ads…

In October of 2004 Google Ads launched with a pay-per-impression basis and only on the right-hand side of the search results. Pay per impression means your ad gets served one time to one person for one search result, so impressions means play here in an out of home context. Before Google Ads launched the auction model, ads had been sold primarily via hand to hand combat, that is boots on the ground sales people. In fact, the whole auction thing started out as a side project by an engineer and  when they tested it, they found rates went up 60% - why? Because they created a marketplace with buyers and sellers to establish market efficiency, they were able to find the highest possible price, in every instance, maximizing revenue. In Google’s first year with the ad product, they did $70M, in 2022, Google did $69B in revenue from their ad products.

Google still has salespeople. Programmatic didn’t replace salespeople. Rather it cut out the bottom performers and made the top performers that much more valuable. The top performers are able to focus on the consultative and advisory type relationships that take you from $70M to almost $70B in less than 20 years.

We’ve talked a lot about timelines today, a lot about the history of things, so I encourage you to dive deeper into the early days of the online advertising business and become romantically familiar with its stories and folk heroes because as an industry, this is our very same moment in time.

Live hungry.

Stay full.

See you next time.