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The Dichotomy of Digital OOH Planning and Buying

Margie Carr

Independent OOH Media Consultant


Margie Carr

Margie Carr

28 August . 3 min read . Opinion

(Credit: Brand IQ)

The Digital Out of Home [DOOH] Landscape in South Africa is coming into its own at a rapid pace.  A hundred screens were added to the roadside digital landscape in the past 12 months, with growth per annum at 25% for the past 5 years and predicted to remain so.  In February 2018, there were 170 screens.  Today – more than 500.  Gauteng remains the hub of DOOH, with 40 of the 50 screens installed in the last 6 months in this province.

As far as distribution of inventory in South Africa – there is now DOOH representation in all the Provinces of South Africa (keeping in mind that 65% of inventory is Gauteng-based).  Location of roadside DOOH is spread across road types and environments as follows, with Main Arterial routes dominating:

(Data Source: Outdoor Auditors Feb 2023 Audit)

Urban Primary areas dominate the space, with growth seen in Township Environments:

Urban Primary                          71%@ 358 screens

Urban Primary Townships        13% @  64 screens

Urban Secondary                      11% @  55 screens

Rural                                           5% @  25 screens

Urban Secondary Townships   1% @   4 screens

With the increase in screens on offer comes the challenge of planning and buying.  Keep in mind that there are at least 23 DOOH owners who own more than 5 Digital Screens each.  In South Africa, OOH media owners number more than 240, and where they have the capability, they are converting key sites to Digital Screens.  Keeping abreast of the latest screen installations and ownership is a time-consuming, but necessary part of DOOH planning.

The Buying and Planning of DOOH in South Africa is currently being done in one of two ways, each completely different from the other:

Traditional buying

  • Traditional buying does not offer the speed and agility of Digital Buying, but it does ensure that relevant inventory will be considered for your DOOH media plan if you know who all the DOOH suppliers are.
  • Traditional buying is time-consuming, and as DOOH suppliers do not have standardized formats in which key information is supplied, a lot of time is spent on getting inventory on par with each other, before planning can even begin.
  • The booking process is challenging – it is done along the same principals as buying traditional (static) OOH, but with the parameters of Digital buying being vastly different, it is a time consuming and tricky process, as each supplier has different booking parameters.


Digital buying

  • Digital buying through DSPs (demand side platforms) gives buyers access to various suppliers’ stock on one platform, on a level playing field, circumnavigating the challenges of Traditional Buying.
  • The problem is that not all suppliers are listed on DSPs. This often leads to relevant DOOH inventory being excluded from campaigns.
  • Owners of DOOH inventory must have a content management system in place that has the capacity to load their stock on the DSPs, and not all of them do.
  • With DOOH accessible on Digital Buying Platforms, there is a need for Digital Planners and Buyers to know and understand OOH environments.
  • There are only two DSPs that align well with DOOH buying.

With Digital buying, especially drilling down to pDOOH [programmatic Digital Out Of Home], DOOH spend is moving away from the ‘mass market’ space into the performance-driven space, where agencies must prove that their campaigns work, and show a measurable outcome.  This will speed up the move of buying moving over to the Digital Buying Desk, which will put pressure on:

  • Digital Buyers & Planners needing to be upskilled.
  • Traditional Sales Reps to be upskilled and equipped.
  • DOOH Suppliers to prioritise getting their inventory onto content management systems that link up with the relevant DSPs.
  • DOOH Suppliers getting validated audience data for their screens.

A change is needed in this mutually exclusive buying environments.

At the time of Outdoor Auditor’s February Audit, there were 580 brands displayed on roadside Digitals, each using on average 4 screens.  Currently there is a lack of urgency on Agency and Supplier side to upskill staff on their OOH and Digital Teams, to be best prepared for what the future holds in terms of the planning and buying of Digital OOH Inventory.

Margie Carr is a digital nomad and an Independent Media Consultant, with more than 20 years’ experience in the field of Out Of Home Advertising.