A quick overview of the inner workings of the OOH media ecosystem

When people talk about “out-of-home” in the most general sense of the term, it can mean a lot of different things. Aside from the fact that out-of-home media pretty much encompasses anything in the physical world that can be used as an advertising canvas—from massive billboards to wallscapes to street art (i.e. bus shelters or scooters)—there are also a number of different platforms and players, including a diverse sea of media owners, that can make the total out-of-home media landscape confusing for even the most seasoned advertisers.

And because the out-of-home media ecosystem is filled with so many moving parts, figuring out how to plan, buy, and execute successful outdoor advertising campaigns can also become time consuming. Oftentimes, and depending on what kind of media units you choose to buy—whether it’s digital or static, programmatic or direct-buy—you ultimately have no choice but to work with a flurry of different partners to ensure your campaigns go off without a hitch. This basically means that OOH advertising, which is a rather uncomplicated media at its very core, essentially operates within an incredibly complicated and complex ecosystem to navigate.

So to help you get your sea (aka, OOH) legs, we’ve decided to provide you with a quick and easy snapshot of what the broader out-of-home media ecosystem looks like as well as a few tips on how you can navigate its many ins and outs. Fortunately, there are a number of solutions available today, like the AdQuick platform (not that we’re biased), that can not only help you make sense of the out-of-home media landscape but also extract a lot of value from it.  

Who are the key OOH media ecosystem players?

There are a lot of key players in the OOH advertising media landscape—and they all serve a different purpose when working with brands and advertisers to deploy effective OOH advertising campaigns across various ad units and formats.

At a high level, you can break the out-of-home media landscape into two primary ‘operating’ components: the supply-side and the demand-side.

What does the supply-side of OOH advertising look like?

As the name suggests, this part of the equation encapsulates the “sellers” and managers of OOH media. The key “sell” side players include:

Media Owners and Vendors: These are the people and companies that have ownership over the various OOH ad units available across the entire media landscape. There are over 1,100 media owners in the United States. The three biggest vendors are Lamar, Outfront, and Clear Channel. And while you might think it’s easy or more scalable to just work with one of these “big three,” the biggest only represents around 15% of available OOH ad inventory. The truth is, there are so many other options and opportunities out there that can offer brands different and more varied kinds of value. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that there are a lot of media owners to deal with here.

Media Inventory Management Solutions: Some media owners oversee only a handful of individual ad units while others have thousands of assets to keep tabs on. Managing all of this can get tedious, fast. That’s where media management solutions, like AdQuick Media Solutions, Apparatix, and Billboard Planet come into the picture. They help media owners organize their OOH inventory to facilitate all aspects of the buying and selling process. Consider these the “guardian angels” of the out-of-home space.

Production Companies: When buying and placing static OOH media, you need to incorporate the costs and timing of producing those goods into your budgets and timelines. Finding the right vendor to print and deliver the creative on vinyl is the most important part of pushing your campaign live. There are a lot of vendors that specialize in large format printing, but they are not all created equal. You need to do your due diligence when bidding vendors to find the one that can offer you the highest production quality for the greatest value.

The out-of-home industry is known for its massive production orders that require air traffic control-like tracking. Add to that the need to double- and even triple-check production specs before anything goes to print. One kink in the OOH production process can quickly lead to delays and other costly errors. So to help avoid the potential for human error and eliminate cumbersome order entry, there are production companies today, like Circle Graphics, that have created smart integrations to help brands automate and streamline production orders like never before.

On top of that, you’ve got to take installation into account. This is typically handled and contracted out by the media owners themselves. The only thing brands and advertisers have to worry about is making sure the creative arrives before it’s scheduled to go up.

And finally, if you work with creative or media agencies to develop, plan, and schedule your OOH advertising campaigns, many of these tasks—from managing production to ensuring on-time delivery of creative assets—will be managed for you. Sometimes it can be outsourced to trafficking specialists, like POP Tracker, as well. These companies oversee the logistics of your campaigns from start-to-finish or, in more industry-relevant terms, from printing to posting.


Did You Know? As more and more digital out-of-home media becomes available to plan and purchase programmatically, other players like Supply-Side Platforms (SSP), Demand-Side Platforms (DSP), Audience Data Providers, and Data Management Platforms (DMP) begin to make up the buying, selling, measuring, and managing part of this process. To learn more about the ins and outs of programmatic digital OOH, check out this blog post.


What does the demand-side of OOH advertising look like?

Also known as the “buy” side of the out-of-home media ecosystem, these are the people and companies purchasing OOH ads. Most typically, either brands do the buying themselves or they work with creative and media (buying and planning) agencies to get their OOH advertising campaigns up and running.

In the past, OOH media buying was incredibly manual; you would have to reach out to each individual media owner separately to get pricing, availability, and other details about a specific OOH placement. This was a very time-consuming activity and, even worse, lacked a tremendous amount of transparency. In other words, you simply didn’t know whether you were getting a great deal or getting ripped off because there was no objective way to evaluate one out-of-home opportunity from another.

Fortunately, a lot of that pain and suffering has changed today. With OOH ad buying platforms, like our own AdQuick Pro and AdQuick SMB solutions, there is now an easy way to automate the entire planning and buying process—for both traditional and digital OOH ads. In fact, these tools are so effective that they can save time by a factor of 10x. This is not only a game-changer from an efficiency standpoint but also exactly what the industry needed to make the entire out-of-home media ecosystem accessible to brands and businesses of all shapes and sizes. Now, there is a central place where you can do it all, through the lens of timely data and insights that can boost confidence around your OOH ad buys.

A quick word about measurement

As the OOH media space has evolved—and has become much more programmatic at its core—data, analytics, and all other sorts of performance measurement have become central to how brands plan, evaluate, buy, and measure their OOH advertising campaigns today.

From data providers, like SafeGraph for location-based data, to measurement solutions, like Geopath, Nielsen, and even AdQuick, there is a new and much more sophisticated layer of data intelligence swirling around the out-of-home media ecosystem. This is, in large part, why the OOH advertising is now starting to be seen as a performance medium, well beyond the more traditional ‘brand awareness’ role it used to play in the past.

It has also enabled marketers to be more thoughtful and strategic around their OOH media buys. If you want your OOH ads to reach a specific audience, there’s now data to tell you exactly what markets, what locations, and what ad units to tap into to drive maximum ROI. This is just one of many OOH advertising strategies where data can now inform decision-making. And it’s quickly changing the way brands look at OOH advertising across the board.

Minimize pain and maximize out-of-home gain with AdQuick

If there were only two things that you take away from reading this, it should be: 1) the out-of-home media landscape is complicated and involves a lot of key players; and 2) there is a better way to plan, assess, buy, manage, track, and measure OOH advertising campaigns now than ever before. In fact, AdQuick provides an easy-to-use hub that spans across the entire OOH media space. Not only does this allow you to manage your OOH advertising campaigns flawlessly, but it also saves time and money in a pretty remarkable way.

If you want to unlock the power of OOH advertising for your brand but still need the tools to do so effectively, our OOH experts can help. Schedule a demo today!  


This article originally appeared in Forbes.