Should traditional media agencies be wary of Google's DoubleClick?

Google’s DoubleClick online advertising could potentially be taking on a real-life stature in the form of billboard ads throughout London.

The Internet giant is currently testing its new digital OOH format which, based on data, is able to automatically choose and churn ads on large billboards in some of London’s high-traffic areas.

The technology leverages data collected in real-time — including audience, weather, travel information, sporting events, and scores — to decide on the type of ads to run while taking into account the best time and place to display them. The technology will show the relevant ads depending on the audience. If the passing audience is not the right one to show an ad to, the technology chooses not to serve an ad.

With the move, no longer is it necessary for a client and a media planner to sit down and pen down which hours are best to target a certain type of audience. Google's new technology could do that automatically for marketers in a matter of minutes.

While testing similar technology in OOH domains is not uncommon, Google’s new tool is a force to be reckoned with given the extensive reach of DoubleClick, which currently dominates the online ads space.

Tim Coller, mobile solutions lead for Google’s DoubleClick, told Business Insider there was a “common misconception” that merging outdoor and web advertising was a straightforward endeavor. For this reason, Google’s DoubleClick trial was meant to set the stage for companies involved to learn that there were changes necessary in order to seamlessly merge digital and OOH.

Coller said Google wants to achieve greater reach among its target audience beyond its normal OOH campaigns. The company also wants to understand if real-time events such as changes in the weather or sports scores would have an impact on advertising.

Out-Of-Home is primarily a broadcast medium delivering big audience numbers, large coverage and high frequency and impact - making it hard to ignore. Digital brings creative vibrancy and motion to the medium and the potential for greater engagement with the audience.

However, digital Programmatic for OOH is not so straight forward, according to Ashley Stewart, managing director of JCDecaux. “There are many aspects to this new opportunity which differ fundamentally from the traditional role played by Out of Home. We are still learning from digital online programmatic before creating a formula for OOH.”

Is this the death of traditional media planning?

While no doubt the OOH scene is increasingly becoming digital, several industry players Marketing spoke to say that it is still necessary for the new breed of digitally advanced media planners to understand how traditional media buying works - be it TV, print or OOH.

Jeslyn Tan, senior general manager commercial business, of SMRT Media said that Google’s move is not a threat to traditional media agencies and planners. Instead, such a disruption would force agencies to become learn to better integrate traditional and digital.

She said, “There are currently two ways of buying which are traditional and digital; digital is still the way to go, but it’s not just about digital ads being placed on OOH. It is about creating content on outdoor spaces.”

According to Tan, competition to traditional media agencies may come from smaller digital players who understand programmatic buying better. These players are now be eating into the marketing spends traditionally set aside for media agencies.

Tan added while digital is the way forward; it will be a while before traditional media channels are completely eliminated.

Ivan Wong, managing partner of Mindshare Singapore, noted Google’s DoubleClick as a natural progression in the automation of media buying: “What is interesting is Google seemingly moving into outdoor media to tap into the growth of digital out-of-home. It is a clear indication that even the likes of Google recognises the digital realm, moving forward, goes beyond cyberspace.”

When asked how this might affect media buyers, Wong said it would bring a more systematic and possibly more data-centric approach to trading out-of-home which could boost the overall OOH industry as the medium becomes more accountable and transparent.

Though still in its nascent trial stage, due to the limited and finite nature of out-of-home inventory in Singapore, it is not clear if programmatic out-of-home trading will benefit advertisers in terms of pricing, Wong added.