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Building a global approach to OOH audience metrics

By - March 14, 2022

Gideon Adey, CEO of OOH consultancy business GUROOH, highlights the opportunity for shared learnings from building a common currency for OOH.

Gideon Adey, CEO, GUROOH As we approached ‘India Talks OOH’ this month, Rajiv very kindly asked me for my perspective on the need for OOH Audience measurement metrics. I remembered the last time I was fortunate enough to be in Mumbai, back in 2019, presenting on OOH audience measurement – who would have thought back then, of the difficulties the world and the OOH industry was about to endure.

Now in 2022, and the OOH industry in healthy recovery across the world, the issues and importance of OOH measurement remain as imperative as they were then. Credible, audience metrics remain a key ingredient for the growth of OOH media worldwide.

I quoted then, the 19th century physicist and inventor of the Kelvin scale for absolute temperature Lord Kelvin, “To measure is to know, if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”.

To measure the delivery of OOH is fundamental in improving the use of OOH - attribution models, campaign tracking, brand tracking and ultimately understanding ROI all require the twin foundations of knowing that the advertisement was displayed, and who saw it displayed. Display verification is another topic, and one that is coming to OOH from advertisers experience with online advertising – but let us address here, who and how many people have actually seen our client’s OOH advertisements.

To measure media is to know who has seen our media, and to measure the effect of OOH allowing us to improve both advertising, and the planning of OOH – higher ROI for advertisers increases the value of OOH; increased value equals increased revenue and drives investment into OOH infrastructure. With the development of digital displays, and trading those displays fractionally, the need to measure and attribute value to OOH becomes even more critical – OOH Audience Measurement becomes OOH Audience Currency.

So what lies behind any commonly traded currency? Trust!

A currency is trusted by both buyer and seller. That trust is built on it being issued by a credible organisation, that the currency has a rigorous approach justifying its value and that it is protected from fraud – whether that’s the printed money in your pocket, the issuer of your credit card, or the data you use to trade media, trust is key.

In OOH audience measurement that trust is generated by having metrics delivered by a respected body, with good governance, a scientific approach to developing those metrics, and a transparent approach that can be vetted by all interested parties. The 2009 ESOMAR Global Guidelines on OOH Audience Measurement is an excellent starting point in understanding credible approaches to developing OOH audience metrics.

But delivering OOH metrics is a shared problem across the globe so the opportunity to share learnings and approaches from around the world is a good one. No territory is the same in terms of market complexity, consolidation, trade bodies, funding or even urban infrastructure – each territory will have its own path to delivering metrics, but there is much that we can share and learn from each other.

To update the ESOMAR guidelines, especially in the area of measuring DOOH, the World Out of Home Organization (WOO) is producing new Global Guidelines based on a review of many existing OOH audience currencies from around the world – showing that although no approach is identical, they all have found solutions to common challenges.

The WOO Global Guidelines will be published at their World Congress in Toronto in May of this year, outlining the key elements in creating currency: Governance & Transparency – Ideally financial and methodological oversight by a Joint Industry Committee (JIC) with representation from buyer, seller, advertiser and industry trade bodies. But where that is not a practical first step, an individual business or a collective of OOH companies can apply the same principles of openness and collaboration that will allow other organisations to join at later stages. Measurement metrics that are not accepted and trusted by both buyer and seller, will never become adopted currency.

Key measurement specifics for OOH Audience metrics: 

  • Measurement of population/volume/OTS – understanding the flow of audience around OOH assets by different modes of transport. Inevitably modelled, but with transparent calibration against known count data.
  • Visibility adjustment – of those that have the opportunity to see an OOH asset, what proportion are likely to actually see it. This is of vital importance in understanding the relative value of OOH locations based on their size, placement, illumination and movement.
  • Travel survey – to understand human mobility around OOH assets and also where they come from, where they go and, of course, who they are.
  • Inventory characteristics – and audited record of precisely where OOH assets are located, and the attributes which affect their visibility.
  • Processing these data into usable information – Models, open to scrutiny by representatives of the users, to ensure consistency and agreement in any assumptions used. Processing methods should be readily repeatable to allow for the expansion to include new OOH assets and new environments.
  • Data delivery – whether as data files for 3rd party tools, or as a proprietary user interface. It is important to ensure that OOH metrics are widely distributed and used for them to become common currency.
  • DOOH: understanding the delivery of fractional space - Digital screens attract more audiences through illumination, movement and the ability to view multiple advertisements. Accounting for those additional audiences is vitally important in understanding the increased value of DOOH.
  • Contemporisation – recent years have shown how travel patterns can be disrupted, understanding contemporary travel volumes and movements is especially important in trading temporally – more so with automated forms of trading.
  • Cross media measurement – understanding the requirements for cross media fusions allows the inclusion of appropriate ‘hook’ data from the outset. Avoiding difficulties in retrospectively modelling cross media several years into a survey.

Measuring OOH media is not an easy task, but it is a task that has been successfully achieved by colleagues across the world, and in a data-driven media ecosystem it is not a task that OOH can afford to leave undone.

With good planning and using shared experience there are many stages along the way where useful audience metrics can be published and used whist the models continue to develop. Even established OOH measurement approaches continue to evolve to encompass new OOH display techniques and ways of trading – but they all started with a first step, and it’s a step well worth taking.


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