If it’s about OTS, let’s go for it
By M4G Bureau - April 26, 2021
Business leader & strategist Rachana Lokhande presents a threadbare analysis of the current audience data application in OOH advertising, and the bankable options for building a common currency for Indian OOH
The discussions on the need for metrics for OOH has been going on for more than a decade. I recall following a discussion on this subject way back in 2007 when I attended what was my first time at the Outdoor Advertising Convention (OAC). And since then I have seen this subject being discussed at length by leading luminaries of the advertising industry and research agencies, albeit in different ways, in various fora. However, the core content of all of those presentations and assertions had been very much alike. So, what has stalled any significant progress on this front?
Down the years, several media houses developed their own tools for OOH audience measurement, to at least demonstrate a degree of accountability to the spends by their respective advertising clients. While that served the stated purpose, it is not evident how much those tools contributed to moving the needle for business. The agencies per se would highlight their own measurement tools as highly efficient, but that has seldom improved their overall share of advertising spends. It was quite clear that the siloed approach was not delivering the expected business results.
On a higher plane, the lack of a unified approach toward building OOH metrics has eroded the credibility of this medium for advertising, that can barely be offset with short-term measures like excess discounting of media rates, offer of freebies, and in some cases, even undesirable steps like extending personal favours to the buyers.
Let us face it that development of a common currency is complex and time-consuming. Hence, only those people who have the capacity to give time and resources, and also handle negative conversations on the need for metrics, should be part of any working group that is constituted for evaluating the processes for building the tools.
At the outset, there are two areas where metrics matter most:
- Locations where you will find your audience
- Inventory at that location which will give you maximum visibility or create impact.
How do agencies deal with these? They are seen to access data from syndicated research or they subscribe to mobile GPS data, or location affluence data. And with the tools that they have, simulations are done to identify the best locations for any brand/campaign.
The next step involves defining the best suited inventory at the target locations. The problem is that specialists use their own ranking norms to make a choice of the inventory, basis the client budget that is available, and that plan is eventually approved by the client for the campaign. As a result, the inventory scoring model varies with each agency.
That being the case, it is imperative for the industry to develop standard metrics for assessment of Inventory at every location.
We do know that OTS (Opportunity To See) means how many people are likely to pass by a particular advertising location and see the asset/display. Vehicular traffic is taken into account to work out the OTS, among other factors.
This regular traffic data is then segregated by types of cars / vehicles and a hypothesis basis multiple research on number of passengers per car is taken into consideration to calculate the number people passing by that location. This can be done by installing an IoT-based camera on every asset on the roadside. This is a scalable option but extremely expensive.
The easier method would be to geotag the locations, map the polygon to identify mobile users passing by target locations. Many technology platforms are offering this as a solution to identify how many people passed by particular locations and what was the quality or profile of the audiences. While that is extremely interesting, you would have to understand that mobile data has its own limitations.
What is mobile data? How do people collect this data?
Most of us have the location sharing option activated on our mobiles although it is optional but there are those who do not activate the location sharing option. The apps that we use have a component called SDK embedded in them. SDK is a software development kit that is used by app developers. SDK tools include a range of things, including libraries, documentation, code samples, processes, and guides that developers can use and integrate into their own apps.
SDK is like a hardware store of the app. They are functional tools made readily available for developers so that they do not have to write codes from the scratch.
These toolkits are also given to app developers free in lieu of which the SDK owner is allowed to track the location of the mobile user, provided the mobile user allows the same (this is more strictly controlled on iOS than on Android). This location data is further monetised by selling to technology platforms in bulk or in part.
Since there are number of SDK providers, what matters is how much SDK data is the technology partner subscribing to and the quality of data. The quality of data depends on the usage of the app and mobile users giving permissions.
India is a large android market with many apps using free SDK. Hence it is considered that India has richer data in comparison to other countries where GDPR policies are strict. With the recent past development of India banning as many as 250 apps, the quality of data is being questioned, though not openly.
While mobile GPS data becomes a good source, what it also lacks is direction of a user and hence it is not accurate, especially for OOH metrics. Hence this needs to be validated or verified by using IoT based cameras at some locations.
To ensure that costs are kept in check, a hybrid model can be developed.
You can take mobile data for all locations and camera data for specific locations to find the variable in the data that needs to be calculated to get near to real understanding of the number of audiences passing by a location. It is a time consuming process, but nonetheless essential.
The validated count along with visibility angle for every inventory would be a good data point to calculate OTS. The data can also be used to further derive Reach and Frequency of a campaign or in common media terms GRP of a campaign.
If the OTS method is approved by the Industry body, every asset would get a standard and unique number for reference. Every media owner would have to share their asset location GPS to get the OTS. This can be managed with a subscription model offered by the association and can become a standard way of offering by all media owners to all agencies and advertisers.
Price is a factor we are keeping aside in metrics. It is another big subject which needs to be understood from all perspectives and a solution needs to be arrived so that Industry can build a rate card system.
The specialists can subscribe to this base data from the association, add price offered to them for various inventories and find the most efficient media asset at every location basis their campaign objectives and campaign budgets.
This entire exercise can improve the credibility of every OOH offering.
Last, but not the least. Something that we should not overlook in the quest for common metrics -- verification of the method to collect data, data itself and the entire process. Third party independent verification is a must. Also the partners onboarded for developing metrics, in an ideal scenario, should not be a media owner, aggregator or a specialists. That will bring more sanctity to and acceptability of the metrics by advertisers and all advertising associations.
Metrics development is complicated but the only way for OOH to gain credibility and growth momentum.
OOH is all about locations. There are multiple assets at a particular location. The basics of metrics is the number of people passing by that location. And an advanced level of metrics is about understanding the quality of the audience in terms of demographics.
In a country like India where business fragmentation is extremely high and clutter equally high, it is very important to understand the OTS of every inventory. The metrics of each inventory will vary basis the physical attributes and visibility angle. It will therefore help us gain an upclose understanding of the quality of inventory available at every location.
Rachana Lokhande, a business leader & strategist, has been in the OOH industry for 2 decades. She was a Co-CEO of Kinetic India until August 2020 and is now a Consultant with Schindler Group for Digital Media Services. Rachana is also appointed as an Advisor to the Board of IOAA. She has worked with some of the largest Digital, FMCG, Retail & Telecom clients. She was awarded “The Most Influential Person in OOH Industry” in 2019. She is a Visiting faculty at MICA for Business of OOH & is an Independent Director.