Major outdoor media unite to create single ad-tracking system

Major outdoor media unite to create single ad-tracking system

The UK’s major outdoor media owners have entered into a landmark deal to create a centralised system for tracking and verifying all out-of-home (OOH) advertising.

In what has been described as a move that keeps OOH “in the game” as advertisers and media agencies seek increasingly sophisticated and high-quality sources of data, the sector’s trade body Outsmart has finalised plans to launch Playout this summer.

Playout is being backed by Outsmart’s members, the major outdoor companies Clear Channel, Global, JCDecaux, and Ocean Outdoor, as well as specialist media-buying agencies such as Kinetic (part of WPP), Posterscope (Dentsu), Rapport (IPG) and Talon Outdoor.

Once operational from July, Playout will contain information about all ads that have been played on sites owned by the ‘Big Four’ outdoor media companies, whose digital inventory comprises 70% of the entire UK market.

Outdoor media rivals work together amid Covid crisis

Tim Lumb, director at Outsmart, told The Media Leader that the Covid-19 pandemic, when lockdowns from 2020 dealt a massive blow to the outdoor sector, incentivised competitive media owners to start working together on research projects.

“We’re seeing, as necessitated by the crisis of COVID, collaboration happen between otherwise fierce competitors. Playout feels a next step on from that,” Lumb said.

The creation of a centralised operation spells an end to the current “peer-to-peer” system in which media owners individually send data to media buyers, each with their own different levels of detail. The media owners have been collaborating with each other on agreed definitions for datasets and Playout should enable advertisers to get a single ad campaign, even if it has run on different media owners’ sites.

It has been three years since Playout reporting was first created between the media owners, Lumb explained, but since then a significant amount of work has gone into developing further reporting standards for different ways of buying digital OOH, such as OpenDirect and, more recently, for real-time bidding.

“These are IAB standards in terms of trading,” Lumb explained. “And we’ve got together and said, Okay, how do we adapt these to the out-of-home business, because obviously they’ve been designed for online display. So we’ve agreed those standards.”

“If you want to put your data into Playout, you’re going to need to fit it to the industry standard. It’s a way of driving the efficiency and improvements in what’s already been there for a few years. But now you’ve kind of got that real reason to adopt it and implement it on a business-by-business basis.”

Quality data reporting now a ‘life and death issue’

There are further ambitions to turn Playout into a one-stop-shop for OOH buying, planning and research. In theory, Playout should provide better and more up-to-date data for media planners to use for econometrics and media-mixed modelling analysis in order to test how well an ad campaign performed. There should also be scope to add data from independent OOH audience measurement provider Route, or add an automatic purchase order-booking process.

Justin Gibbons, partner at Work Research, described Playout as a move that will keep the outdoor “in the game for next 50 years” as it should become more attractive for advertisers who want near-instant feedback on digital ad delivery, as they have had for years with online display and search.

“Frankly, OOH has had a brilliant growth story for the last four years without having to do anything, [but] the measurement hasn’t been good enough. But increasingly they will have been missing out on digital buys… it’s become a life and death issue for all media.

“Now, after having four or five years of a sizeable digital outdoor estate and expertise in programmatic, outdoor media knows where the game is: high quality and trusted data.

“This will be what keeps them in the game for the next 50 years.”

Following a formal pitch process in 2022 including a number of major tech consultancies, Outsmart has appointed Adwanted UK (formerly Mediatel, The Media Leader’s sister company) to build and maintain Playout and expects it to become a foundational part of the OOH tech landscape. Mediatel has worked closely with the UK OOH industry for over a decade on tech projects including SPACE and the Route API.

Greg Grimmer CEO of Adwanted UK, said: “As the UK media’s favourite adtech supplier we were delighted that Outsmart asked us to pitch for an additional product to add to the work we do already for the sector. To win this versus some extremely large and capable competitors gives me great pleasure but due to the quality of our work doesn’t surprise me in the least.”

Digital OOH now makes up 64% of the entire UK OOH sector revenue and runs on 27,000 digital screens.

Adwanted’s out-of-home team for the pitch was led by Nicola Mullett and Julie MacManus.

MacManus added: “Our experience and expertise in building cross industry technology collaboration will obviously help the development of this project. We believe it is a great opportunity to work with the UK OOH sector to produce a world leading piece of technology that will assist the industry in efficiency and profitability both now and into the future.”

Editor’s note: The Media Leader is part of Adwanted UK (formerly Mediatel), which provides data services to media owners, media agencies, researchers and academic institutions. All reporting in this article is independent; any paid-for content we publish is clearly marked as “Partner content”.

Adwanted UK is the trusted delivery partner for three essential services which deliver accountability, standardisation, and audience data for the out-of-home industry. Playout is Outsmart’s new system to centralise and standardise playout reporting data across all outdoor media owners in the UK. SPACE is the industry’s comprehensive inventory database delivered through a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution which delivers the ooh industry’s audience data quickly and simply into clients’ systems. Contact us for more information on SPACE, J-ET, Audiotrack or our data engines.

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