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Measuring OOH: What buyers want to see

Date: November 25, 2014

Recently Joe Philport, the longtime head of TAB, the organization that oversees OOH ratings, announced his retirement, and Outdoor Advertising Association of America president and chief executive officer Nancy Fletcher is taking over on an interim basis as TAB reassesses its direction.

This is one in Media Life’s ongoing series, “Swept by change: The new out of home.” 

Passion is not generally a word you think of when you think about media measurement.

But out of home may be the one exception.

Media people have a passion about the issue. They see measurement as the real salvation of out of home over time, the thing that can prove OOH is worthy of standing toe to toe with other, more celebrated media.

But while there have been huge improvements in out of home ratings in recent years, starting with the 2011 rollout of a new system measuring billboards, there are still many areas where media people want to see improvement.

Clearly more change is on the way.

Recently Joe Philport, the longtime head of TAB, the organization that oversees OOH ratings, announced his retirement, and Outdoor Advertising Association of America president and chief executive officer Nancy Fletcher is taking over on an interim basis as TAB reassesses its direction.

Media Life reached out to our panel of out of home advisors and asked them to tell us what they want to see in the future from OOH measurement.

Here are their answers. To join in the conversation, post a comment below, or reach out to us on Twitter (@MediaLifeMag) or Facebook.

Arlene GoldnerArlene Goldner
Senior vice president, director of media services

I’d like to see:

1.TAB as universal measurement. We need to, at times, purchase billboards from smaller independent providers. They say they can’t afford to be TAB members. TAB should create a tiered membership fee structure to make it affordable to all.

2.Wall-scapes measured.

3.Tri-visions vs. billboards (not sure if the view time is considered at this time?).


Laura Hinrichsen
Associate media director

I would like to see more qualitative audience data, beyond just the basic demographics of age, gender and income. There are so many layers to what truly defines a target audience for a brand beyond basic demos, and it would be great to be able to evaluate OOH (and all other media) accordingly. In ideal world, we would be able to see some lifestyle targeting information, similar to what we can do with behavioral targeting online.

It would be great to see more measurement of place-based media or other non-traditional units.

A frustration with measuring digital units currently is the ability to only measure them in one week increments. This makes it challenging when wanting to understand the value that OOH has when used strategically for a time increment that doesn’t come to an exact number of weeks.

I think the future is very bright for OOH measurement, but the industry needs to do a better job of demonstrating its credibility and educating influentials on both the agency and client side. When compared to the methodology of many other rating measurement systems, the logic behind OOH Ratings is rather sound.

There is still not enough focus on the metrics and ROI in the sales process. Many are still focusing on location only.


Elana Redd
General sales manager
Delta Media

I would love to see average reach and frequency for each market, medium and demo. As of right now, we can only get R&F for specific units.


Ally Cook
Marketing manager
Clear Channel Outdoor Tampa Bay

It amazes me that we have not yet utilized beacons and/or portable people meters to gain a better understanding of travel patterns/habits (# of trips, demos on who’s in the car, commuting vs. errands, etc.).

Beacons would be difficult tools to launch and maintain, as they rely on multiple levels of opt-in from smart phone users, e.g. download the app, enable wifi, allow the app to access your location, allow app to access your personal information, etc.

Incorporating existing measurement tools like PPMs into TAB’s system would not only give the OOH industry richer/more up to date data but would also, I believe, start the ball rolling on inclusion of OOH in more industry news/reports/white papers.

We often see Nielsen or eMarketer compare the effectiveness/or ROI of each media tactic as well as media mixes, but OOH is often left out of the equation.


Gretchen Reisner
Senior specialist, out of home
Empower MediaMarketing

The TAB enhancements made in the last few years have elevated the measurement of traditional OOH and enabled media planners-buyers to better mix outdoor with other media to prove out efficiency and reach. We have utilized the new measurement to “win” outdoor budget on campaigns that traditionally were all broadcast.

However, the placed-based and digital-placed-based out of home spaces also need to take the next step with their measurement. Nielsen’s fourth screen reports are helpful and better than solely utilizing pedestrian traffic to report impressions for placed based venues; but the reports cannot break down the demographics sufficiently and do not offer much in the way of qualitative data.

This is hindering more widespread use of the space and will need to be addressed in order to compete with other offline and online media spaces.


Jason Kiefer
Chief commercial officer

I look forward to the day when eye tracking technology (along with facial recognition) can be installed on an OOH location easily enough and register each time a person actually views the location. It would finally provide the confidence of how many people are viewing the display and also measure how impactful the creative on the location is when comparing the total views from campaign to campaign.

To date, the OOH industry has always come up short on with the ability to effectively measure the quality of the creative posted on a location.


Stacia Hanley 
Media director
School of Thought

The end goal these days is for all channels to be pulling measurement seamlessly, from a single unified platform. No more media mixes, no more dodgy media math. What everyone wants is to input their plans based on whatever metric they have on hand, then have the system correlate everything and spit out the key numbers — the net number of people reached, the percent of the universe size, the frequency, target rating points, impressions, etc. A one-stop shop.

The problem is, we’re trying to retrofit old ways of measurement, methodologies that didn’t work, into a whole new set of media behaviors. It’s a bad foundation. Technology, especially mobile, has had an immense impact on the rest of our media behaviors, and we’re not accounting for the holistic impact. In addition, and what everyone in this industry tends to forget, is that all measurement methodologies, old and new, regardless of the channel, have always been a little bit faked anyway. We have been content to extrapolate the behavior of masses based on a few diaries, traffic estimates, etc. Even digital measurement, supposedly the most measurable of the lot, is not foolproof. Issues with viewability and ad fraud are plaguing the industry, proving that the original cornerstone of digital measurement, impressions, is uncertain the majority of the time.

Mobile, whether you like it or not, really has changed everything. Yes, you may have been watching “Dancing with the Stars” one night, but tell me also how many times you looked at your phone/tablet/laptop during the commercials and during that one-hour time slot. Ten? Twenty-five? Fifty or 75, for the real addicts? No media channel is immune to this, even OOH. I was on a market ride last week in LA, and it was shocking as we drove down Wilshire, La Cienega and Olympic, just how many drivers weren’t paying attention in the car, because they were on their phones.

The best thing we can do is look for ways to measure consistently, and I have a feeling that mobile will be the way to do that. Many brands are already using mobile to track location and behaviors across media channels.

And I see something like a suped-up version of that coming forward in order to help track traffic near these boards, and near televisions, computers, and anything else carrying an ad. As mobile hardware advances and privacy issues are driven down further by unique anonymous identifiers – barring, of course, massive public outcry – we may produce an environment that makes cross-media measurement via mobile possible, and truly meaningful.

And then, we’ll need someone willing to invest in that level of revolution — I’d be surprised if Nielsen or whoever would be willing to overhaul that kind of infrastructure. Maybe it will be the mobile hardware folks.

In the meantime, use the numbers you see in OOH directionally, for comparison’s sake when evaluating plans. Beyond that, there’s a certain amount of trust you just need to place in OOH. Of course, do your homework, ride the boards, be a tough but fair negotiator, but OOH is your big, quiet giant in the middle of your market. If folks notice that elephant in the room, great — if not, you’ll likely be catching them elsewhere, on their phones, computers, television or in print, whatever.

Targeting capabilities are more and more advanced in an effort to help us do that.


Clare-Marie Harris Panno
SVP, Director of Insight
Posterscope USA

What changes or improvements would you like to see in how OOH is measured?

I would like to be able to have respondent level data for OOH, so that we could create cross tabulations and segmentations to analyze OOH delivery against our target audiences along the same lines as we do with other media.

We also need to increase flexibility from 1 week to 1 day in terms of both measurement and actual ability to “post” in one day.  With digital OOH, we need to be able to plan and buy in dayparts.

What sort of data would you like to see that is not now available with the current measurement system? 

I would like to see all OOH including mobile, digital and place based digital and transit, all in one measurement platform.  I would like to be able to mix average GRPs of formats for which we cannot get locations lists until close to posting with GRPs of actual locations like specific bulletins, for example, using the appropriate duplication.  We cannot do this presently.

Are there areas of OOH advertising that are not being measured that should be measured? What and why? 

In the USA, the Traffic Audit Bureau is presently working through the release of transit media, i.e., trains, busses (inside and out) as well as taxi media and others that move around the consumer.

We need to have an agreed way to pull this data easily into our traditional OOH model in which we calculate delivery for OOH that the consumer moves around.  I would like to see Digital Place Based and Mobile media included.

Generally what do you think is the future of OOH measurement, particularly as compared to other media measurement systems? 

The future of OOH is very positive, we are on the cusp of many major advancements.

There are many new data sources from which we can target audiences as they travel around in the OOH space.  We now have the technology to be able to deliver relevant content through digital OOH at the right time and in the right place to the consumer.  We are entering exciting new data partnerships which increase the effectiveness of OOH on behalf of our clients, to name just a few examples.

With regards OOH measurement, if the above criteria could be implemented, than this would result in a first-class media measurement system that is comparable to the best of media currencies.


Greg Siano
EVP, director of media services

Accurate measurement of outdoor advertising has long been a challenge. For the most part, audiences have been determined with rather subjective measures such as TAB ratings (formerly Eyes On) and pedestrian foot traffic in malls and travel hubs. These quantify the “potential size” of the audience, but not how many actually viewed a specific ad. Clearly, there is a need for further enhancement, especially since media planners and buyers are tasked with weighing the impact, and audiences, of outdoor ads versus other vehicles like broadcast and digital. Absent more reliable metrics such as Nielsen ratings and clickthrough rates, outdoor companies should consider the following:

* Help advertisers incorporate more overt response mechanisms into their outdoor executions. For example, retail advertisers could offer incentives such as discounts redeemable by visiting their website and entering a promotional code, similar to many radio advertisers.

* Educate their sales teams on how to illustrate the quantitative benefits of using, or increasing, outdoor advertising. It’s well known that the media efficiencies of outdoor advertising can enhance the impact of a multi-media campaign. Outdoor sales could increase if this advantage were better leveraged.

* Capitalize on the benefits of technology-based measurement to quantify audience size and demographics. While this may not be possible for traditional billboards, place-based outdoor companies might reconsider measurement methods such as the PPM used in the radio industry to quantify audiences.

* Improved audience metrics will only provide more rationale for media planners and buyers to invest in outdoor. That said, the proliferation of outdoor advertising opportunities will most likely fuel continued growth.


Candice Puzak
Group media director

What changes or improvements would you like to see in how OOH is measured?

Ongoing real-time measurement to capture seasonal variances in traffic for more accuracy vs. annual projections based on traffic counts.

What sort of data would you like to see that is not now available with the current measurement system?

Viewability. Some kind of metric that factors in things like length/distance of view, clutter, natural obstructions, etc. Having that (if consistently updated) would provide another objective measure, as well as help reduce the need to drive the boards, which isn’t always feasible.

Are there areas of OOH advertising that are not being measured that should be? What and why?

Nielsen now measures pretty much every form of OOH.

Looking ahead, what predictions would you make for OOH measurement, compared to other media measurement systems?

More automation with built-in devices similar to set top boxes and people meters for broadcast.


Kelly McGillivray
President and chief methodologist

What changes or improvements would you like to see in how OOH is measured?

I would like to see greater use of the new TAB ratings data and more education, as well as expansion to other forms of out of home advertising such as mall and airport media, digital and static place-based media, train exteriors, and perhaps even mobile campaigns.

What sort of data would you like to see that is not now available with the current measurement system?

Besides ratings and demographic data, I would like to see an attempt at real-time and daypart ratings (or at least an understanding of daily, hourly and seasonal variation). I would also like to see a move towards more effectiveness measures (tying in with actual purchases, recall, awareness, etc.). The Visibility Ratings are good and I think they need to be disclosed to members, rather than rolled in with the other data. It should be possible to quote average number of digital spots seen per viewer. I’m not sure if that is available yet.

Are there areas of OOH advertising that are not being measured that should be measured? What and why?

Yes, malls, airports, digital and static place-based (e.g. fitness clubs, restaurants, etc.). I think some of these aspects of OOH are suffering from lack of credibility. Measurement would contribute to increasing the overall quality of these advertising formats (because they would be more financially viable).

Generally what do you think is the future of OOH measurement, particularly as compared to other media measurement systems?

I think it is important to continue integrating OOH ratings with data from other media, especially TV and online. OOH will become more mainstream once more effectiveness research is completed and once it is easy for buyers/planners to buy and compare on the same software platform.

I would like to see a move towards real-time measurement, not just annual averages. Other media are measured on the spot. If OOH was also measured with some kind of hourly, daily and seasonal variation being reflected, it would be easier to then tie in the effectiveness to actual sales, for example.

The industry should develop standards for other media formats, especially place-based, as this is a big growth area, and the quality of measurement is currently poor to non-existent.


Kurt Recker
Account executive
Lamar Advertising Company of Toledo

Attribution is more important than ever across all medias, and out of home has never had a sound measurement for it.

TAB’s weekly impression rating system really is outstanding comparative to how other medias measure their impressions, but impressions alone are only half the battle until a sale can be attributed to that impression. I feel that out of home truly doesn’t get the credit for the true numbers of sales that it creates, and once it can tell that story it will be a game changer.

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