VIOOH is a leading global digital out of home marketplace. Launched in 2018 and with headquarters in London, VIOOH’s platform connects buyers and sellers in a premium marketplace, making OOH easily accessible.

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Ethical advertising and OOH


August 20, 2021

These days, advertisers must navigate an ethical minefield on a daily basis. Whilst the dominance of programmatic in digital display has brought a smorgasbord of options to the table, with them comes a variety of ever-evolving challenges. From transparency and ad fraud, to sustainability and ads appearing alongside unscrupulous content, our digital-first world has many challenges for advertisers to circumnavigate in a careful and considered way.

In my, admittedly not entirely unbiased view, digital out of home (DOOH) offers great solutions to all of these big-ticket items,as a transparent, brand-safe media channel that has unrivalled levels of viewability, no buy-side sale fees or third-party cookies challenges. As well as clear regulations on topics such as High Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) advertising and a proactive and impactful approach to sustainability, what’s not to love about ethically savvy digital OOH?

Here are my five insights on the key topics:


Sustainability is a key consideration for consumers in 2021 with 32% of consumers already living sustainable lifestyles. Gen Zers in particular are adopting more sustainable behaviours than any other groups: 50% reduced how much they buy and 45% have stopped purchasing certain brands because of ethical or sustainability concerns.

The ad industry is sitting up and taking notice, with nearly 90 brands who have already set their own ambitious targets to tackle climate change, following the UK Government’s announcement to be Net Zero by 2050.

The Climate Action Working Group, led by the Advertising Association (AA) in partnership with Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), launched AdGreen last September. An initiative to eliminate the negative environmental impacts of production and reducing emissions from production is one of five recommendations from the AA's Ad Net Zero report. Another great proactive approach is the recently launched IPA Media Climate Charter, one of many practical first steps on the pathway for sustainable transformation now available to advertisers.

DOOH is one of the best media channels not only to deliver on net zero goals, but to positively impact local and national infrastructure and communities. Investing in DOOH can deliver net zero goals as well as brand and wider community benefits.

DOOH has led the charge within the media owner landscape when it comes to sustainable development. All four major UK OOH media owners - JCDecaux, Clear Channel, Ocean Outdoor and Global, have already implemented strategies to drive carbon neutrality across their business.

From putting 50% of budgets back to public infrastructure projects and local communities, to utilising solar panels that power screens and creating eco-friendly ‘living’ bus shelters that have mini gardens on the roof to encourage biodiversity and wildlife corridors. DOOH screens are also often powered by renewable energy and are designed to be long lasting – reducing the need for regular replacement.

Data & Smart Screens

Smart screens can also be used to harness data for positive impact – to activate, inform and convert sales. The first-party data can be used to understand the cities that you are operating in and how you can add value to the communities. Data can also be used to inform placement as well as messaging and behavioural change.

For example, a campaign for Renault ZOE calculated air pollution levels, enabling bidding on screens in instances of high and medium pollution levels. The creative was adjusted based on the live data, and based on the full campaign (TV, OLV and OOH), it delivered 144% increase in searches on Google.

Trigger-based buying using data around promotions, news, consumer journeys, location, weather, environmental conditions, time and moments means campaigns can be adjusted automatically or only displayed once certain criteria are met, reducing wastage. The creative used in programmatic OOH ads can also easily be changed, amended, or even paused, in near real time. The creative can be replaced automatically to respond to the external environment or other triggers, maximising effectiveness.

Protecting The Community

There are strict regulations in OOH about advertising to young people or near schools – and considerations around religious sites too. OOH is a considered and well-regulated media channel – and with that comes sensitivity to its surroundings.

If a poster site is located near a school for example, the ASA is likely to consider that to have skewed the audience towards having a higher proportion of children. Many outdoor media owners apply a ‘100 metre rule’, meaning they will not place certain ads, for example those that are sexually suggestive, or those that promote age-restricted products such as alcohol, gambling, or e-cigarettes, within 100 metres of a school boundary.

The same approach is taken across OOH to ensure HFSS campaigns are not targeted at an audience which consists of more than 25% of under-16s.

Transparency & Brand Safety

Digital OOH delivers premium and brand-safe inventory, high impact creative and zero viewability issues. It has strict rules about where creative can be displayed, ensuring brand safety and OOH is by nature a broadcast medium, with a one-to-many environment. All of these features are also true when the OOH inventory is traded programmatically, and through this transparency and control, location and time-based targeting is available, as well as real-time reporting insights delivering full transparency.

There is also little chance of the audience fraud or click bots that can be found in programmatic display. Digital OOH uses both first- and third-party data, and due to the public, broadcast nature, there is no ad blocking, bots or skipping, as often experienced with display or mobile advertising.

Finally, there is also a creative moderation process in place in every Private Market Place (PMP). This means that media owners must moderate the creative and that checks are carried out at this high level. In addition, for an added precaution, there are inclusion / exclusion lists which can be set up.

Data, programmatic and the demise of display

According to Statista, display advertising drives 92 billion US dollars for the US market alone. Once the golden child of performance, it’s been no secret that third party cookies are being phased out and the industry needs a solution, and fast. In addition, it is estimated that up to 42% of internet consumers have adopted ad blockers across their devices, and this is particularly prevalent amongst audiences aged 16-24

In my personal view, planners, buyers and marketers are increasingly looking at display advertising with some scepticism. What will the third-party cookie ruling really mean? Is Google’s FLoC the long-term solution? With increasing levels of ad blocking, how will consumers react to alternative means of data capture and will brands make up for that challenge by building their own first party data assets and strategy?

This creates a degree of uncertainty which allows for another channel to carve out its role in delivery and fulfilment. The programmatic outdoor ecosystem can certainly fill that gap and drive a viable alternative offering as a result of many of these issues being non-existent in the out of home arena.

As VIOOH’s Q4 2020 State of the Nation report showcased, the addition of programmatic is enabling OOH to carve out its own positioning stance as both an upper funnel customer awareness driver as well as offering a lower funnel and direct response and engagement role. Programmatic OOH has an omnichannel role integral for influencing both new and loyal customers and that's becoming ever apparent to those that trial the channel.

So, if you’re looking for an ethical media channel – then look no further than digital OOH.

Gavin Wilson is the chief revenue officer at VIOOH. For more information visit: