Consider Your DOOH Buying Methods Wisely: Direct Sales vs. Programmatic Buying

Consider Your DOOH Buying Methods Wisely: Direct Sales vs. Programmatic Buying

As the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 have lifted and crowds once again return to shopping centers, airports and other public spaces, more advertisers are turning to digital out of home (DOOH) to capture the attention of customers. DOOH has emerged as one of the fastest growing and most captivating channels available to the modern marketer. Combining the mass reach of traditional out of home (OOH) with jaw-dropping digital visuals, it is no wonder that the US programmatic DOOH market is estimated to be worth $5.2 billion in 2022 – growing to $8.6 billion

by 2027.

One of the drivers of this growth is the injection of programmatic purchasing ability into DOOH. To make the most of their ad dollars, advertisers need to understand how they can purchase DOOH using one of two different methods: direct buying and programmatic.

Both purchasing methods have their strengths and in order to create a successful DOOH campaign, marketers need to know how and when to deploy the right method.

Identifying audiences

For marketers looking to dive into DOOH for the first time, the ease and efficiency of purchasing will undoubtedly be the top of their priorities. In this, both purchasing methods have their strengths.

For marketers with an ample lead time and looking to incorporate a holistic approach to their campaign, direct buying can be powerful. As a more traditional buying method, marketers are able to select inventory and negotiate rates and flights personally. For those wanting to handpick their inventory and keep a tight watch over budget, this purchasing method can be effective. The intensive amount of labor and time needed to negotiate these deals can be a drawback. Also, once these campaigns are set up, there is little room for maneuver. Contracts are for set time frames, and changing messaging mid-campaign or redistributing spend is not easy.

By contrast, one of programmatic DOOH’s greatest strengths is its flexibility and speed. This purchasing method is perfect for marketers looking to deliver campaigns on a fluid schedule with more flexible spend. Unlike the labor-intensive purchasing method of traditional DOOH, programmatic deals are made in marketplaces at rapid speeds. Initially, marketers set out what type of inventory they are looking for, their budget per impression and other parameters. The automated bidding process then selects inventory and, if bidding is successful, ads can be rapidly placed in those slots. By using programmatic DOOH, marketers are able to access a wide variety of digital inventory at scale all with the click of a button, while giving them the flexibility to pivot messaging and spend in-flight to where it can be more effective.

Measuring success

Traditionally, the ability to effectively measure OOH and DOOH has been limited. End-to-end measurement was essentially non-existent, even when the campaign was completed. If the inventory is well chosen by a marketer, they will have some assurance of impact. But without the data to back this up, OOH and DOOH accurate measurement against KPIs and ROI is hard to understand.

Programmatic DOOH truly revolutionizes the measurement capabilities of DOOH. The reason for this is two-fold – the implementation of powerful Internet of things technology in DOOH inventory and the ability of programmatic DOOH to rapidly ingest these signals and target relevant ad slots.


Footfall, intent, and audience type around DOOH inventory, can all be measured thanks to privacy secure data sources such as geofencing and mobile IDs. The speed at which this data is available allows marketers to optimize a campaign according to where and when it is performing the best. Ultimately, this influx of analytics allows marketers to gain better attribution for all areas of the sales funnel. Programmatic DOOH brings the channel into the wider media mix, making its impact more measurable.

Staying on target

With this improved measurement capability comes improved targeting. Programmatic DOOH allows marketers to set parameters that need to be met in order for a campaign to be triggered. These could be anything from audience density, as determined by mobile ID data to behavioral traits or movement patterns.

What makes programmatic DOOH truly stand out is its ability to activate ads using Moment Targeting, unique to the industry. Key ‘moments’ can be pre-set in campaign planning stages such as flight delays, driving conditions, pollen count, sporting event goals or seasonal activations such as BBQ weather and holiday shopping. The ability to target in a more granular way can noticeably improve uplift. With a post-campaign footfall traffic study, Mazda recorded a 30% increase in dealership visits. Programmatic DOOH’s flexibility and ability to maximize spend are also perfect for brands on a smaller budget. Its lack of initial outlay and ability to trigger spending only when most effective makes it a less risky investment.

That being said, traditional DOOH purchasing still drives great value and targets effectively. If a brand is looking to target a very specific location in a busy or impactful area, securing guaranteed placements for a set length of time may be an effective and proven use of spend.

Ultimately, both purchasing methods have their strengths, and to run truly effective DOOH campaigns, marketers should use a combination of purchasing methods to maximize ad dollars and impact. Programmatic DOOH’s influence and capabilities are only going to continue to grow, and marketers that are looking for a truly modern addition to their multi-media mix should look to harness its capabilities. Not only does it streamline the purchasing process due to automated transactions in real-time, but its measurement and targeting abilities are truly game-changing.

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