Clear Channel: why we’re investing in measurement during out-of-home’s darkest hour

Tesco's out-of-home ads

Lockdown has meant out-of-home advertising has never caught the attention of fewer people. Clear Channel UK’s managing director, Richard Bon, explains why the company has still powered on with the launch of new measurement technology during the sector’s most trying time.

Some may argue that there couldn’t be a worse time for the launch of the new version of Route, out-of-home’s audience measurement tool, and currency. I’d disagree. It remains a celebration of how far our industry has come, but also now feels like something much, much more profound – a landmark moment for different reasons.

Out-of-home has always been good at measuring its audiences, right back to the manual processes measuring who’d seen paper posters. Digital advancements have made contextual advertising outdoors a reality, but also a mammoth challenge for those measuring its effectiveness.

This latest Route release feels like a mammoth leap forward, making the audience measurement as advanced as the format.

New 15-minute windows help drive hyper-targeted campaigns, looking for specific audiences, and specific times. Those windows consider seasonality too, reflecting changes in audience sizes across the whole year. More granular data allows brands and advertisers to separate the foot traffic from vehicular traffic.

For brands that means an opportunity to better tailor the message, but also to reflect on how people digest it.

Reading this, you’re probably asking, well what good is this in our current world of working from home, closed schools, and limited time outside of the home?

Even now, with those reduced audiences, we can still get huge amounts from the data.

We’re still able to identify the locations most suitable for specific, targeted messages, many of which are coming from brands communicating their timely messages during this time. For us at Clear Channel, it means we can assemble our estate into clearer, more defined packages for brands and advertisers, which is especially important during this tricky time.

The new data proudly shows us how far the medium can reach, helping to broadcast vital public service announcements. The new headline statistic – out-of-home reaches 98% of the UK population each week – is a trophy for how far the industry has come in recent years. And that’s not just the major cities. It’s all corners of the UK – high streets big and small.

But for me, the new release of Route stands for something much more poignant: our world, in lots of ways, is undoubtedly set to change, and our medium will need to change too.

This release is a thorough, comprehensive record of out-of-home during its peak. We’re able to look back on that data to inform the future decisions that we as an industry may need to take. To reimagine the future of our industry, we’ll need as much information as possible from the past, and Route has helped us complete more of the pages of our history book.

This new Route has shown us how else we need to gear up for the future. Our world changed in a matter of hours with Covid-19 and the pace of change in the future will undoubtedly remain high. As powerful of a tool as Route is, it can’t track real-time changes in behaviour – whether self-imposed or Government driven.

Fully understanding behaviour out-of-home, in as close to real-time as possible, will be critical to the longevity of the industry. The question post-Covid-19 – in our ‘new normal’ – will undoubtedly be ‘how have people’s behaviors changed?’

We’re fast on the way to being able to answer that question, thanks to the continued development of Radar, Clear Channel Outdoor’s mobile data platform. We’ve been working on introducing it to the UK for some time now and we’re turbo-charging the latter stages of development so advertisers and agencies can benefit from it during and beyond these tricky times.

Radar isn’t designed to replace Route; rather it will co-exist and complement as to give the fullest possible picture of how the public goes about their daily lives, however that may change.

New Route feels like a notable, memorable landmark for out-of-home, not because of its appearance during these strange and unpredictable times, but because it feels like the dawn of a re-imagined, smarter, and exciting out-of-home industry thriving in the new normal.

Richard Bon is managing director of Clear Channel UK

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