Marketing Media Planning and Buying Media Measurement

It’s time for a revolution in how OOH audiences are measured

By Dylan Mabin | President

April 10, 2023 | 7 min read

The industry needs to rise to the challenge of innovating out-of-home media measurement in order to make the most of the channel, argues Geopath’s Dylan Mabin.

Billboards in Times Square NYC

/ Dennis Maliepaard

The volume of available metrics for quantifying media and understanding the extent to which an audience has been exposed to an advertiser’s message is plentiful these days.

In the out-of-home (OOH) media industry, the explosion of data has created access to new insights on audiences and population movements, precise forecasting and a deeper understanding of audience behaviors. It has also enabled advertisers to measure both the amount of OOH media delivered and the success of marketing campaigns, all of which have elevated the value of the medium.

The influx of new data sources and methodologies has impacted the way the OOH industry is planning, transacting and valuing media. It has expanded what we simply called ‘media measurement’ to include media consumption and now media impact. While the conversation around OOH media has gotten more complicated, our understanding of what’s influencing the outcome of a campaign’s success is now more comprehensive. This is a very good thing, but it is going to be an adjustment for an industry that has more traditional ways of buying and selling.

While the methods of media consumption in most other channels tends to be consistent and standardized, the number of ways in which an individual can potentially interact with OOH media are not only seemingly infinite, but varies for every media location moment by moment. The number of influencing variables makes understanding and quantifying the nature of the interaction between the audience and the message challenging, and has resulted in OOH inventory being vastly undervalued, clocking in at the lowest CPMs in the media.

For OOH to increase its share of the media pie and earn its rightful value for its ability to reach the masses better than any other channel, the industry must embrace a new dynamic in the way OOH audiences are measured – even if it means revisiting business practices that have been generating revenue in the past. To be fully integrated into omnichannel and programmatic media buying platforms, OOH must be able to standardize how the many disparate inventory formats are measured, and deliver cohesive metrics that can be easily incorporated into broader marketing plans.

Today, not only is circulation and mere exposure insufficient for measuring media consumption, but its continued use as a currency is devaluing the media industry at large. Only by considering the broader array of dimensions such as location, dwell time, media format, vehicular traffic, pedestrian traffic, sign size and attention can a more accurate impression number be generated for each unique OOH asset. It can’t be done via a single data stream either – it requires leveraging multiple data sources, methods, and models, each suited to the unique location of OOH media.

Here’s the good news: the OOH industry has committed to enhancing forecasting and measurement capabilities and making the necessary investments that will increase OOH’s prominence and share of the media pie. The industry is reconciling the most precise and accurate data to paint a consistent picture across the whole of OOH media, delivering the coveted analytics that marketers want, as well as what they are already accustomed to getting from other media channels.

OOH forecasts are now taking these variables into account so media owners and agencies can help their clients understand whether their messages are being seen. OOH can now sell audiences and impressions, not just location. We have greater insight into population activity and how people move around the physical world – which is more important than ever in the wake of the pandemic. And the timing couldn’t be better, with the disappearance of cookies and other identifiers on the open web under constant scrutiny and ripe for even more disruption via privacy regulation.

As the last true mass medium, marketers see and feel the impact of OOH campaigns, even though they may not have been able to quantify it the way they wanted to in the past. Those who aren’t spending money on OOH are hesitant because they can’t measure how it works with the rest of their media spend. Now we have the data to measure and prove it.

And even though attribution and measuring the overall performance of a campaign are the province of marketers and their agencies, enhanced OOH audience measurement data can be used to help connect all the dots to determine if a campaign delivered against its impression goals and answer the question of ‘what happened’ when an audience was exposed to the message.

For OOH to move beyond its current 4% share of the media marketplace and demand greater revenues more in line with its true value, the industry must be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of the channel by widely adopting a modernized and contemporary approach to data analytics. It’s time for the industry to update its thinking around measurement, invest in education and develop the infrastructure that can support the integration of new data formats into proprietary buying and selling platforms and day-to-day business operations.

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Dylan Mabin is president at Geopath.

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