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News Plus 24 Mar 2021 - 4 min read

DOOH or die: JCDecaux eyes digital duopoly’s lunch with programmatic push, Adobe data deal

By Brendan Coyne - Editor

Programmatic placements give advertisers greater luxury of choice, but command a premium.

JCDecaux's Steve O'Connor and Cassandra Cameron are backing programmatic capabilities to break out of DOOH and into Australia's $9.5bn digital market. They claim data deals with Adobe and others mean they can not only target far more efficiently, but effectively predict where audiences are going to go next – and promise Australia's "cleanest digital supply chain". The target is 50x growth within three years.

What you need to know:

  • JCDecaux launching programmatic DOOH in April, targets $50m revenue by 2023.
  • Aims to to make big volume gains from $10k+ SME advertisers.
  • Inked deal with Adobe for audience data.
  • Claims can wrap in geo-location data both for verification – and predict where audiences will be.
  • CEO Steve O'Connor has not yet given up on cross-industry buy platform.
  • Doesn't rule out buying media for SMEs one day.

Without question, programmatic offers us the opportunity to gain access to the $9.5bn that's currently being invested in digital online channels.

Cassandra Cameron, GM, Strategy and Revenue, JCDecaux


JCDecaux aims to take a bigger slice of digital ad budgets via a major programmatic push. CEO Steve O’Connor and Revenue and Strategy GM, Cassandra Cameron, aim to go from a standing start to $50m by 2023. Not yet enough to worry the likes of Facebook and Google. But programmatic out of home wasn't built in a day.

Every OOH firm is currently beating its tech drum in a bid to bounce back from 40% plus Covid revenue hits, but the JCDecaux bosses suggest it is walking a more sophisticated talk.

The firm has inked a new data partnership with Adobe, aiming to blend audience data with mobile geo-locational signals to better align online and offline advertising, plus proper reporting and targeting.

The plan is not just to take more OOH market share, but to compete for broader digital budgets, while scooping up the same SME krill that has created advertising’s biggest whales.

“Without question, programmatic offers us the opportunity to gain access to the $9.5bn that's currently being invested in digital online channels. That's a huge opportunity for growth in the out of home sector,” Cassandra Cameron told Mi3. She’s not alone in that view – global OOH bosses are also eyeing a much bigger share of the pie via programmatic channels.

“A lot of advertisers have been targeting private screens – laptops, televisions, mobile phones,” she said. “Now we can be as targeted on public screens.”

Meanwhile, programmatic capability brings down the cost of entry, bringing tens of thousands more Australian advertisers to the party, added Cameron, if not hundreds of thousands.

“There is a really large opportunity in the volume game.”

Hybrid growth

After six months in soft launch, JCDecaux’s fledgling programmatic business has already booked north of $1m in revenue, according to O’Connor. By 2023, he’s targeting 15% of overall digital bookings, or circa $50m.

But that growth will be additive, not cannibalistic, according to Cassandra Cameron.

“If you're looking for broadcast reach, frequency and brand awareness, then a traditional broadcast campaign executed via direct insertion order (IO) will be the most efficient and effective way of executing that campaign strategy,” she said.

“But if you're looking for that additional targeting and flexibility, then a hybrid approach is probably the best way to go – and I think we will start to see that much more.”

Supply and demand

JCDecaux launched its VIOOH supply side platform in 2018. In Australia, three demand-side platforms currently connect to it: locational targeting platform Hivestack, plus Vistar and Verizon Media. The Trade Desk is set to connect within the next few weeks.

Down the track, the plan is to connect with as many DSPs as possible – with all deals ultimately conducted via private marketplaces.

That approach, “keeps us close to advertisers”, said Cameron. “Plus, I think private marketplaces make sure that advertisers are well aware of what they are buying.”

Pricing models

Steering away from opaque open marketplaces also avoids a race to the bottom on price. 

“In fact, our programmatic CPMs are higher than our direct insertion order CPMs, reflecting the flexibility that is available,” according to Cameron. At $20-$25, they are two to three times higher, but the upfront threshold is lower.

“Instead of investing a minimum of $100k across a network for a minimum one week duration, in effect we’re offering advertisers ‘infinite flexibility,’ down to panel level,” she added. “They can pick the time and place they want to be active. With that flexibility comes a premium, and to date, advertisers have been largely supportive.”

Moreover, JCDecaux won’t dump remnant inventory into its programmatic bucket. Instead it will guarantee 5% network availability each week through programmatic channels, added Cameron, increasing set asides as the market matures.


We’ve launched VIOOH into 13 international markets, with five more coming in 2021. As that momentum and functionality improves, perhaps that will warrant a second conversation [with rivals about a centralised buying platform].

Steve O'Connor, CEO, JCDecaux

Single platform?

JCDecaux built its VIOOH platform in 2017-18 with the idea of selling equity to rival networks in a bid to pool all DOOH inventory in one place. A rising tide, as they say, floats all boats. But as TV networks and publishers will attest, centralised buying platforms remain stuck in the mud.

“We haven't been particularly successful in that so far,” O’Connor acknowledged, but he hasn’t given up entirely.

“The logic still applies. We’ve launched VIOOH into 13 international markets, with five more coming in 2021. As that momentum and functionality improves, and as we prove it drives growth outside of traditional means, hopefully we’ll get other companies coming on board,” said O’Connor.

Should it prove a growth magnet, “perhaps that will warrant a second conversation” with rival Australian networks.

Either way, Cassandra Cameron thinks advertisers will win in deals where fewer parties take a cut.

“We’re looking to have the cleanest programmatic supply chain.”


Owners turn buyers?

Some early programmatic advertisers have deployed hundreds of creative variants, per Cassandra Cameron. She cites REA Group as a standout example of blending national coverage plus “hyper local targeting” with suburb specific creative – a major trend and growth market since Covid upended daily living patterns.

While many media owners, JCDecaux included, now tout in-house creative studios, adding in-house media buying for SME customers is not yet on the agenda, according to CEO Steve O’Connor. But he doesn’t entirely rule it out.

Meanwhile, O’Connor thinks JCDecaux’s creative team may well require greater resource should his $50m target become reality. But he’s backing a new ad effectiveness tool – dubbed Optix – to help determine what’s cutting through, feeding back into the in-house studio and advertisers, programmatic or otherwise, increasing efficiency.


Adobe deal

JCDecaux has joined Nine in striking an audience data deal with Adobe. While there are legitimate questions about the impact of Google’s post-cookie, post-tracking rhetoric on those arrangements and capabilities, O’Connor thinks the partnership provides value.

He said the deal, along with its mobile data arrangements with the likes of Hivestack “means we can identify devices frequently exposed to our assets”. Via Adobe, said O’Connor, marketers can stitch together datasets from other providers and retarget audiences that have definitely seen ads – or at least been near them.

“Better still, we can do the exact reverse and identify the locations advertisers’ audiences will interact with,” he claimed.

In a post-Covid world, that’s an interesting proposition.

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