Direct vs. Programmatic advertising on digital billboards

| Blindspot

If you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to make sense of how to approach advertising on digital billboards – or, more specifically, DOOH (Digital Out of Home).

Among the many options that you’ll have, there’s none more crucial than choosing between direct and programmatic spots. These will have different definitions depending on who you’re talking to. Some may call it programmatic vs traditional. Some may invent their own lingo to make it stand out. The core of it, however, is the same.

What’s a direct spot? 

A direct spot (or campaign) is a campaign that is part of a billboard’s rotation. You could consider it comparable to monthly rent. The advertisers there usually buy in large volumes so it makes sense for them to secure their spots on key screens. These advertisers represent, on average, 50% of the advertising space available on digital out of home. The rest is usually distributed as spots for NGOs, self-advertising for the landlords (or other stakeholders), or public interest messages.

Other advertisers can get in on this space as well. The minimum is usually around 1 day (24 hours) and pricing varies from screen to screen, but you can usually expect budgets between $5,000 and $50,000, maybe even more during key events.

If you’re launching something at an important date (Christmas, New Year’s Eve, 4th of July, etc.) and need to be 100% sure your space is locked, then you should consider a direct spot. The downside is the large cost and high minimum.

If you’re looking to book this kind of campaign, all you need to do is reach out via email or live chat and our team will assist you.

Pros of direct:

  • Guaranteed buys, for at least one week: you lock in the slot.
  • Gets you more plays as you are part of the rotation.
  • Long-term campaigns benefit from cheaper cost per play.

Cons of direct:

  • Higher minimums: your campaign has to run for longer periods of time.
  • Weekly minimums, sometimes monthly: your campaign has to run for at least one week/month.
  • No real time reporting: there is no way to know if you are efficiently spending your ad budget OR measuring the performance of your campaign.
  • No flexibility, running 24/7: you are not able to set your campaign to only run at peak hours when traffic is high in the desired location, which leads to non optimal ad spend and hurts your bottom line.
  • No contextual creative: since you must plan and submit your campaign creatives ahead of time, you are not able to set triggers for changing creatives based on local weather or events.

What’s a programmatic spot? 

A programmatic spot (or campaign) is a campaign that is scheduled automatically and is not part of the normal rotation. When you schedule a campaign with Blindspot, our software automatically syncs it up with each individual screen’s system in order to run at the exact hours and frequency you select. 

We see availability in real-time, so we’re able to tell you if a screen is sold out or not responding. What our tech does is fill in whatever is not already bought out via direct campaigns in a programmatic approach.

Our proprietary solution makes sure that if there’s space there available programmatically – you’re the one getting it. Pricing can vary from $2 (not a typo) to a few hundreds of dollars per hour (for 10 plays per hour), although some landlords might require certain minimums. We don’t impose any artificial minimums.

In most cases, campaigns run without a hitch. If they don’t, you get refunded 100% of the missed plays. This is the perfect approach if you’re doing small, but recurrent, flights or are still testing out this advertising channel. When used correctly, it’s the best way to purchase digital billboards.

If you’re looking to schedule this type of campaign, all you need to do is hop on the Blindspot platform and choose your locations and dates. Easy as that.

And that’s it, you now know the key difference between direct and programmatic campaigns. If you have any questions, you can always reach out via email or live chat.

Pros of programmatic:

  • Flexibility: you can set your ads to run at high traffic hours instead of 24/7, which enhances performance and ad spent.
  • Contextual creative: you can set your campaign to run multiple creatives and use triggers to change creatives more easily for a dynamic contextual ad with superior performance.
  • Lower minimums: allows you to run cost effective ads for shorter periods of time.
  • Real time reporting: can help you measure and supervise the performance of your campaign at any time, allowing you to optimize your next DOOH campaigns.

Cons of programmatic:

No guarantee slot: if a screen gets sold out via a direct contract, the programmatic ad doesn’t play. 

However, should this happen, you get credited 105% of what your campaign budget is, so you don’t lose money, you actually make money! 

More specifically what this means is that we will be offering you bonus credits that you can use in a new campaign, as compensation for the campaign that you will have paid and has not played. And not to mention that the extra credits that you will be compensated, will allow you to run your next ad a little longer, complimentary on us! 

So it’s important to rest assured that we got you covered, should this occur when using Blindspot.


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