The role of data in the DOOH Publishing ecosystem

The role of data in the DOOH Publishing ecosystem

Digital-Out-Of-Home is an increasingly popular advertising channel because of its reach, visibility and impact on the audiences. DOOH Advertising is made possible via a diverse and sophisticated global ecosystem of screen networks, specialist agencies and technology platforms.

The key element defining the Digital-Out-Of-Home Publishing ecosystem is a broad category of DOOH Media Owners – screen network operators in charge of the screens delivering the advertising content to the audience and running it on-screen according to the agreement with Brand Advertisers or, in many cases, with intermediaries on behalf of the Advertisers (Media Buying Agencies, DSP and SSP platforms). It is this distinctive powerful media and its strategic placement that make the industry so unique and different from other media channels. DOOH screens vary in size and technology. They can be tiny to fit an elevator, an edge of a shelf or a taxi. They can be big enough to command audience attention when people are busy with their daily routines – at bus stops and train stations, malls and airports, supermarkets and gas stations, cafes, gyms, medical practices and almost anywhere. They can be huge and overlook streets, roads and city squares. They are all different, but all of them are designed to attract attention and deliver an impactful message.

This fantastic diversity, an extraordinary choice of physical environments and thus many ways of tapping into huge varied audiences have also introduced a challenge for advertisers – they had to choose where, when and how to advertise using whatever data they could get. Compared to online advertising, DOOH is still in the process of establishing, fine-tuning and standardising industry-wide and generally accepted currencies, KPIs and data sources that all advertisers could rely on. Before venturing into the discussion about data sources and metrics, let us look into the underlying reasons why the data is so important to all the key DOOH industry players.


It is actually advertisers who dictate the need for data in the industry. Accustomed to the depth and granularity of insights they are getting from digital advertising platforms, and those digital channels have been evolving for decades now, brands demand and leverage every available data point about the localisation, fluctuations and behaviour of their target audiences. Brands never want to waste their budgets for ads that are not seen by the population they are interested in.

They design and structure advertising campaigns based on the prospects of reaching their potential customers and engaging them with a tailored message. They want to know if their content was indeed on-screen when their audience was there and how many potential and actual ‘views’ it got. They need to understand how engaged their audience was with the advertisement. Was it effective enough to make people look? Did it manage to engage them and keep their attention for longer? To make them look again, here or at some other location? Was it the right product to advertise to that audience? Could the message or the visuals be adjusted to make the ad more appreciable? And ultimately, how to optimise the marketing budget to get the maximum impact, across multiple channels?

Those are types of questions brands are looking to address when planning advertising campaigns in general, and those questions require comprehensive, granular and reliable data from the publishing ecosystem. Those questions are imposed, in some way, on every player of the DOOH industry.

“What to advertise” and “Who is the target audience” – those are the types of questions usually addressed by the brands themselves, using the internally compiled and sourced data. “Where”, “When” and “How” questions, among many others, must be addressed in close cooperation with the industry, using the data provided by agencies, publishers and technology providers. Let us have a look at how historical and live data helps in the process of creating a DOOH campaign.

Creative agencies

Advertising campaigns are usually developed by Creative Agencies or corresponding divisions within DOOH Publishers. Creative Agencies’ priorities are directly aligned with the brand’s objectives, requirements and expectations. They analyse in-depth the product, its positioning and the target audiences it is intended for. They focus on designing a tailored message that resonates with the appropriate target market and drives awareness, recognition and action – that is the agency’s measure of success. 

To develop the most effective and personalised creatives, to drive views and engagement, the agencies must leverage data about the preferences and behaviour of the target audience. What type of message or visual drives more views and attention from a particular demographic group? Are families more likely to engage with such creative during weekends? What is their average attention span during this period of time and in those locations? Is this demographic more likely to respond to that call to action? A lot of helpful insights can be extracted from a variety of available data sources about the demographics, socioeconomic profiles and locations. Much can be learned from past campaigns. Many elements can be perfected via several iterations of A/B tests.

To further increase the chances of getting the target audience to engage with the creative, it can be designed to allow dynamic content optimisation based on external data or real-time triggers. High chance of rain in the next hour may be taken into account to add an image of an umbrella and drive attention. A high proportion of young people in the past hour could change the message in the ad. A group of people in front of the screen could be presented with a different visual compared to just one watcher. To enable this level of personalisation, the campaign’s execution needs to have access to real-time or near real-time data about the audience at each location. 

Creative Agencies help to address the “How to advertise” question for the brands. Questions “Where” and “When” are handled by media planning and buying agencies.

Media planning and buying agencies

Media Planning process covers the selection of the optimal combination of media channels, and in the DOOH case – publishers, locations, as well as the schedule – within a budget defined by the Brand/Advertiser. Media planning agencies focus on creating a media plan with the best chance of success. This process involves researching, analysing and comparing the data about available channels and locations, their audience, seasonality patterns and many other factors.

Media planning agencies are also often responsible for Media Buying – the process of finding and negotiating ad space across the intended media channels and locations, according to the planned campaign parameters and the budget. For this, they need data from DOOH Publishers about their networks and each location, as well as comprehensive details about audiences in those locations.

Being responsible for the actual booking of the ad space, for the best chance of reaching the campaign’s target audience, media planning and buying agencies are also often in charge of verifying the campaign’s completion and effectiveness. To achieve this, they need to access the critically important data about the actual audience, their behaviour, engagement with the creative and the ultimate effect on the brand’s image, traffic and sales. That data is often available directly from DOOH Publishers, but also can be provided by relevant and participating technology providers.

The effectiveness and cost of advertising campaigns can sometimes be significantly optimised via automation through programmatic trading platforms, with many of them supporting or specialising in DOOH.

Programmatic trading platforms (SSP, DSP)

Programmatic exchanges focused on DOOH have emerged to make it easier to find, negotiate and book ad space for campaigns – in an automated way, based on audience and budget parameters defined by the buyer. This helps to drive the costs for the advertiser down and better utilise and monetise the inventory for the media owner. This also helps with the speed of campaign booking process and better accessibility of the media for advertisers. There are exchanges that even allow booking omnichannel campaigns, including DOOH, which makes the advertising process even easier and more cost-effective.

All kinds of DOOH Programmatic Platforms (Supply-Side Platforms and Demand-Side Platforms) need data to operate. This data may include screen types, sizes and locations, visibility, audience insights and many other data points helping buyers to decide which screens are best fit for a particular campaign.

DOOH Publishers

Media owners/screen network operators are the key players in the DOOH ecosystem. Their screens are the actual touch points between the advertisers and their audiences. Questions they ask include “How to justify and grow the value of the network and its assets”, “How to maximise its utilisation/fill rate”, and “How to attract advertisers”. 

There are two major types of DOOH Publishers – premium screen networks (with large and premium screens, large and diverse audiences, e.g. malls, airports, train stations etc.) and tactical/place based networks (smaller screens and much smaller but often specific and captive audiences, e.g. gyms, restaurants, taxis etc.).

Both of those types are equally interested in data, although premium networks often have access to a more diverse selection.

Research and consulting firms, industry associations

To combine and correlate data from multiple sources, and also to answer specific questions about the audience, DOOH media owners often use help from specialised research and consulting agencies that are able to augment the internally collected data (normally using technology means) with extra insights and analysis. They are often able to run customer surveys, focus groups and other projects to analyse in depth potential customers’ reaction and sentiment towards the advertisement, to better understand their feelings and motives.

Such data is also often compiled, correlated, and analysed by DOOH industry associations and provided to their members to improve their understanding of location performance and their audiences.

Technology providers

This broad spectrum of primary data employed by publishers, agencies, brands and other players in the DOOH space is extracted, collected and provided using technology from specialist providers of mobile location data, WiFi/Bluetooth sensors, Anonymous Video Analytics, vehicle traffic and people count, and POS transactions. As the industry matures and is gradually raising the bar for the quality of data and depth of insights, technology firms are also forced to take on the mantle of a data company and, instead of delivering isolated and raw datasets as before, focus on the value they provide to their end customers. This often means bringing the data up to speed with the current industry norms, pre-processing it for better alignment with existing marketing workflows and even enriching it with third-party data and extra services.

The modern DOOH technology stack now includes such sophisticated components a the next generation content management and scheduling platforms incorporating elements of or full-scale SSP and DSP, new and quickly growing campaign delivery verification platforms and advanced Business Intelligence/Analytics providers. This scene is quickly evolving.

Of course, all those industry players above cannot work in isolation. They must work together to help advertisers achieve their marketing and business goals while providing informative and entertaining media to consumers. To work together, all the businesses in DOOH must speak the same business language, and that includes data and KPIs.

In the next article we will break down the most commonly used types of data sources in DOOH and analyse how they can be effectively used to produce relevant insights addressing the most important challenges of the industry.


Understand why Quividi is the best audience measurement platform for your company.