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‘Let’s get in automation first, programmatic will be the next natural step’

By N Jayalakshmi - October 18, 2021

Shriranga K Sudhakara, MD, Vyoma Media, shares his insights on the various layers inherent in the pDOOH space and on the factors that can drive its growth in a manner that benefits the OOH industry as a whole.

Shriranga K Sudhakara, MD, Vyoma MediaCan you first take us through your experience with Programmatic DOOH? Where do you think the Indian OOH industry stands currently with respect to programmatic?

We have been in the DOOH space for about 12 years now and we have tried multiple platforms where we had our inventory listed and ads could be inserted dynamically. Technically programmatic is supposed to be real time and dynamic; the screen has to be engaging with the platform on a regular basis. But in the Indian context, pure play programmatic has yet to take off in any meaningful way.

What do you think are the reasons for the slow take off of pDOOH?

There are there main reasons:

1. Lack of scale on the supply side. A lot more media owners have to definitely start getting on board.

2. The second reason has to do with the quality of data itself, in terms of the attributes of each media owner’s screens and the number and variety of formats. There are multiple formats and it’s important to define the screens and their locations. So there is need for a lot of quality driven, layered data attribution, which has not yet happened.

3. Finally, of course there has to be greater push on the demand side, from the advertisers too.

But essentially I think it’s critical for the supply to step up. Once supply goes up, then the demand will come in. Today the inventory available itself is very limited. But yes, in a sense it’s a chicken and egg situation. So the question: Do we bring in advertisers so that the supply will increase or increase the supply so that the demand picks up.

So, what is the way forward for pDOOH to really take off in any meaningful way?

The first step is the definition and understanding of the word ‘programmatic’. The word is very loosely used today without a deep understanding of how it works. The base for programmatic is automation. So we need to first look at how to create impact and case studies for brands in an automised, measurable manner. Programmatic then becomes the natural next step.

Secondly , it has to be brand or sector specific. The entire eco-system has to really focus on the advertisers and address what they are really asking for. There is no point in just putting everything up on a programmatic platform if the advertiser is not really able to use it.

Finally, there is also a need to define the common currency. In the pure-play programmatic space, you are essentially buying impressions and it’s important to see how we can measure those impressions. In a purely digital or online environment, that is clearly defined and the benchmarks are already set for target audience and impressions because it’s one to one. But here in DOOH, that is yet to be defined because it’s one to many and we have not even moved to the audience based visibility mode yet.

Once you define common currency, then everyone in the eco-system has to be aligned to that. The question is: How do we plug into a pure digital/online environment. If you want to be benchmarked against the online digital word, then the currency also has to be rooted in that.

Some of the global industry bodies are now trying to define a common currency and arriving at the equivalent to impressions for DOOH screens.

So many things have to come together and the entire eco system has to evolve. Adoption happens when you get  all the pieces together right, it’s like a puzzle.

It’s also imperative for all of us to be nimble and adapt. It’s important for DOOH media owners and other stakeholders to be programmatic enabled. Only when that happens and supply starts getting created that advertisers will also start experimenting with it and there will be greater traction in the space.

Any example you can think of to show the efficacy of using programmatic in the right manner?

The best analogy to draw from is the use of programmatic in the online /digital world, where it has got great acceptance. Brands have built case studies out of it and have learnt how to use the various levels of data attribution effectively, like geo targeting at different levels based on demographics, location, etc. So, essentially it’s about targeting at a hyper-local level.

The fact is that DOOH also offers these opportunities. It’s just that we haven’t really utilised them well enough for brands to experience them in any significant way.

Any specific opportunities you see today that point to greater potential for pDOOH?

The current pandemic itself has been a big driver for DOOH. But like I said, the automised buying mechanism has to be first put in place. Also, I think a lot of the digital first brands will be the early big adopters of pDOOH because they are among the top advertisers today. They also understand the programmatic language well and have their metrics in place, besides a clear mechanism and methodologies for attribution generation. That’s why I’m so bullish about programmatic coming into the DOOH space.

The mobile advertising space is also a good indicator of what can happen. In its early days, it used to be only 4-5% of the entire digital ad pie. Fast forward 15 years later, and mobile advertising possibly accounts for 60-70% of the entire digital pie. The main growth factors are: 1) Supply - every hand has a smart phone today; 2) Demand - On the demand and technology side, it has become very intuitive.

But then it’s also a fact that in India it’s very difficult to accurately predict because it is an interesting and challenging market - adoption could happen very fast. So it would just take one tech platform company to create a common currency and pDOOH could suddenly go to the next level of growth.

If done right, pDOOH could address many of the issues dogging the OOH industry currently, right?

Absolutely , that’s the beauty of it. Challenges like measurability, common currency etc., could all get addressed in one shot with pDOOH. But there’s no short or easy way to do it either; if there was, then it would have taken off by now. Nobody knows the secret sauce right now and like I said earlier, everybody is still trying to address the question of whether to first get the supply going or to bring in the advertiser first.

But as a media owner I’m fairly confident that it will happen soon because the good thing is that everyone, irrespective of whether they are traditional media owners or not, accepts that this is important and pDOOH can actually be a game changer, if implemented well. This is the first step. Also, our industry association is taking some steps like onboarding digital OOH vendors and measurability companies as their members and that is a good beginning. And like I said, once anything gets adopted in India, then it can spread like wildfire.


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