OOH Measurement: A Fractured Landscape

by | Jun 15, 2020 | OOH Measurement

It’s certainly an exciting time to be involved in out of home (OOH) advertising. As we move into a new decade, new technologies designed specifically for the OOH advertiser are positioned to make a big impact. The industry is justifiably thrilled about the future of real-world advertising.

Advances in delivery and measurement technologies together with the traditional benefits of real-world ads have made OOH unavoidable for many marketers. These advances, however, have not been equally distributed to benefit the entire industry. The primary reason for this disconnect is simple: one form of OOH media is place-based, and the other form is moving. We’ll get into why this matters, but first: what is a moving OOH ad?

The Rise of MOOH

Moving out of home advertising (we’ll call it MOOH), also known as transit advertising, is all around us. It’s a form of advertising that you may not think of immediately when you think of OOH ads, but look closely and you’ll realize just how big this segment is.

MOOH ads are everywhere. Buses, trains, the subway, taxis, ride-share fleets, delivery trucks, mobile billboards, trollies, bikes and scooters are all being used as OOH advertising platforms. Innovations in the production of vinyl wrap have allowed marketers to create durable, high-impact creatives that can be applied to vehicles of any type. Previously unused spaces are being converted into MOOH ad placements. Commercial vehicles, like delivery trucks, now deliver more than just physical goods – they deliver OOH ad impressions. Ride-share drivers are earning more revenue by wrapping their vehicles and turning them into moving advertising platforms, a reflection of the benefits of MOOH ads for the gig-economy worker.

Advancements in digital screen technologies have ushered in the era of digital out of home (DOOH), exponentially multiplying the number of existing OOH ad placements and creating new opportunities to advertise on vehicles. Indeed, Uber and Lyft are both experimenting with digital taxi-top style ads on their fleets in their (seemingly) endless quest for profitability. They understand that the ride-sharing business model will require some form of advertising revenue in order to be sustainable.

Benefits of OOH Advertising

OOH, MOOH and DOOH ads are growing in number, and it’s easy to understand why. Out of home advertising can be a brilliant alternative, or the perfect complement, to digital advertising. Digital advertising has its limitations. Fraudulent traffic is still an issue. The growth and sophistication of ad blockers means that digital ad visibility isn’t always 100%. Combine these limitations with the sheer number of ads that consumers are faced with online, and it’s easy to understand why digital advertising isn’t always the best way to cut through the noise and effectively deliver your message.

OOH advertising doesn’t have the same limitations as digital advertising. OOH ads are difficult to avoid, and they create a significant impact on consumers due to their size and contrast to the real-world environment. OOH campaigns can’t be ignored, turned off or skipped. Large-format and highly visible, OOH ads create a lasting ‘Wow!’ factor that digital ads cannot. Moreover, OOH ads reach people where they spend 70% of their time: out of the home.

MOOH ads have the added benefits of being at eye-level and in motion (the human brain is hardwired to track movement). They are usually found in densely populated urban areas with high levels of pedestrian foot traffic. And because they move throughout cities, creatives can be optimized to reach certain audience segments.

But when it comes to measuring exposure and attribution, OOH, MOOH and DOOH still lag behind digital advertising. Digital advertising was developed with measurement in mind. Oceans of data make it easy to measure the impact of digital campaigns. We know that OOH ads work, but until recently, the data proving this fact were missing.

The Problem: Measurement and Attribution

Marketers are data-driven. They demand actionable data in order to determine return on ad spend and optimize their media buys accordingly. With digital advertising, marketers receive detailed performance reports with exposure and attribution data, all quantified and handsomely visualized. For OOH marketers, however, it’s been a different story.

Historically, marketers in the place-based OOH media space would receive monthly impression estimates from the media seller as proof of performance. That was it. These estimates were usually based on months-old vehicular traffic studies, and had little bearing on the true level of audience exposure. However, the demand for accurate performance data has enabled the rise of new measurement technologies that advertisers have long been waiting for. AI-enabled cameras, mobile device location data, Wi-Fi sniffers and Bluetooth Beacons allow OOH advertisers to track and re-engage exposed audiences digitally, and the effectiveness of OOH ads can now be proven with data. It’s never been easier to bring your offline audience online, where you can start to measure attribution.

But the moving OOH media segment has continued to be underserved or ignored altogether. The reason for this disconnect is simple – it’s easy to measure how many people see a static or digital billboard because that billboard is standing still. It never moves. All you need is a camera pointed in the right direction to understand how many people see a billboard. But when your ad is moving and so is your audience, just measuring how many people see it becomes a challenge.

Typically, MOOH media sellers have to rely on experiential formats to win new business. But this is all changing. Some technology-savvy MOOH media sellers have created internal measurement methodologies to use a competitive advantage. Kudos there! Still, if a buyer purchases media on ride-share toppers in San Francisco, it’s possible they will receive two totally different proof of performance reports.

When media sellers measure their own ads, it’s like the fox guarding the henhouse. This leaves MOOH as a fractured and potentially untrusted media segment. What the MOOH industry needs are dedicated, independent, third-party measurement providers that are trusted by both media buyers and sellers. Thanks to the persistence and innovation of a few players in the MOOH industry, this is becoming a reality.

Actionable performance data are now available for both OOH and MOOH marketers. The same data that buyers expect from place-based/digital OOH campaigns is now accessible to the MOOH industry. And the data doesn’t start and end with impressions. Brands can now receive accurate, dynamic impression reporting. They can learn about their real-world audiences with demographic and consumer affinity data. They can digitally retarget their audiences and turn real-world exposure into online engagement. Marketers can now understand how many website visits and conversions are being generated from people exposed to MOOH ads. Location data can be used to link brick-and-mortar store visitations to MOOH ad exposure. MOOH analytics has evolved from monthly impression estimates to near-real time, full-scope reporting on modern platforms that look more like digital advertising platforms than OOH ones.

We have entered a new era in OOH measurement. OOH, and more specifically MOOH, is on the verge of significant, sustained growth. Finally, there are tools designed explicitly for MOOH marketers, helping them close the out of home attribution loop. For OOH media buyers and sellers, the future is very bright. There’s never been a more exciting time for the world’s oldest form of advertising.

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