Blazing The Out-Of-Home Trail

DOOH billboardWhen digital jukebox maker TouchTunes rolled out Attract Media (“a digital-out-of-home activation platform”) last week, the focus was predominantly on direct sales.

Michael Coppola, the company’s VP of media and advertising, pointed out that while the capabilities exist for automated ad serving, “We expect a vast majority of the advertising to remain direct … with a very small percentage served programmatically.”

Carl Kalapesi, VP of industry initiatives at IAB, where he oversees the task force on digital out-of-home (DOOH) that was established at the end of 2014, echoed the thought. “[DOOH] hasn’t necessarily been integrated into the wider ad-serving system but that’s changing,” he said, “and there are a lot of technology companies looking into how you bring ads to those screens.”

The IAB convened the DOOH task force to enable that integration. DOOH screens, such as digital billboards and place-based signage like the screens in taxi cabs or elevators, typically run on closed networks established by their publisher.

TouchTunes’ advertising platform runs a selection of IAB-certified rich media units, one for display and another for soundless video (you’re listening to the music, after all), and taps AppNexus as its ad-serving partner for all digital campaigns. The company’s jukebox network supports almost a billion “micro-transactions” per year in about 60,000 venues. Its pitch to brands is national scale for their digital ad campaigns in bars.

Several companies have seen the potential to bring digital signage to ad exchanges, and not just established out-of-home (OOH) players like iHeartMedia and Outfront Media. Earlier this month, Rubicon Project CEO Frank Addante specifically referenced DOOH as a potential sector that could use the capabilities to plug into the programmatic RTB system.

James Price, SVP of data insights and programmatic product at Outfront Media, says digital out of home is just another screen in a brand’s arsenal, but with more flexibility to accommodate innovation.

“OOH and digital more specifically provides another screen to interact with consumers at the top and middle of the funnel – both to incite consideration in creative ways, as well as reinforce messaging occurring in other media,” he said. He cited the Allegra campaign the company recently ran in the Chicago area, which activated based on the pollen count on any given day.

TouchTunes has incorporated technology into its platform that will attempt to target consumers closer to the point of sale. Up to 20,000 venues are introducing the company’s “proximity solutions,” which use Gimbal beacons, geofencing technology, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to enable more precise in-venue targeting.

COO Jim Wilson described the company’s investment in a mobile app, where users can engage with the bar and influence the venue’s music, as the crucial step for a DOOH product, due to rising consumer adoption of in-app transactions and the ability to activate users when they enter a bar.

According to Kalapesi, mobile functions as a hub for DOOH. “Having a device in your pocket that these screens can interact with … is huge,” he said. “That’s the nexus for how it will work.”

Mobile, unlike advertising mediums like digital and connected TVs, can provide more contextual data and location targeting. Though TouchTunes, along with the entire DOOH space, is in the early stages of integrating into the ad tech ecosystem, even small steps forward give new opportunities to put that data to use in productive ways.

One example is location targeting. A crowd coming from a sporting event can be targeted with a deal or ad, thus giving a game sponsor the chance to “continue the conversation with that audience.”

According to Kalapesi, “the multiscreen capabilities are what’s really exciting.”

Out-of-home means TouchTunes can attack a different part of the sales funnel with richer ads. Alcohol companies rarely have the opportunity to hit their most ideal, captive audiences – people in a bar – beyond wall posters and sponsored happy hours. “All of a sudden these brands can buy industry-standard video ads and deliver them to an audience that’s right there, on the one-yard line,” said Coppola.

TouchTunes, which has been making digital jukeboxes for bars and restaurants since 1998, has seen a great deal of change in the industry, and essentially has changed industries, going from an entertainment network to an advertising platform.

“This is really an evolution of how we look at ourselves as a company,” said Wilson. “It’s a natural evolution. … We’ve been in the advertising business for several years.”

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