A Clearer Lens: Restoring Trust In Out-Of-Home Measurement

A Clearer Lens: Restoring Trust In Out-Of-Home Measurement

Outdated and modelled legacy measurement metrics being used by OOH companies have hindered confidence in the channel. Robin Arnold [pictured], Chief Technology Officer for LENS Technology & Analytics explores the few hero systems emerging to bring trust back to the channel.

What do marketers really want?

It’s a hard, nuanced question that has many answers. However, one answer is that marketers want transparency when it comes to the channels they invest in. They want to have confidence their actions will get the right results.

To speak simply, marketers want the truth.

Marketers these days are undoubtedly more focused than ever on truth and transparency when it comes to channel investment. They want to have confidence their actions will get the right results.

The times suit these data-hungry marketers too, with the rise of digital delivery creating greater transparency for budgets. Over time this has created new expectations not just for online channels, but in more traditional media like TV and radio. Marketers can now see tangible, real time results and tweak campaigns in the moment like never before – and damn is it addictive.

But one channel in particular has fallen behind in terms of accountability – Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising.


The first digital display ad was served in 1994, and programmatic kicked off in earnest in 2007 – these aren’t new innovations.

But in 2021 much of OOH is still being traded on historical information which is, to put it politely, tantamount to guesswork and open to abuse.

Traffic figures, behaviours, digital trails and visibility research are all determined through averages, one-off studies and expected results. This information doesn’t tell advertisers how many people are actually seeing their ads, it only purports to measure potential visibility in a perfect world.

And if we’ve learned anything over the last year, it’s that we’re definitely not in a perfect world when it comes to these audiences.

In this changing, digitally-driven world marketers are now openly expressing their need for contemporary data that improves audience measurement and overall media accountability.

While TV offers you the opportunity to capture ratings, and your email marketing tools can tell you exactly how many times your email was opened, OOH doesn’t have these luxuries.

The Out-Of-Home industry has a completely different set of hurdles to overcome. Potential viewers are always in transit, are busy, time poor and impossible to predict from afar.

Yet digital OOH (DOOH) now represents over 70 per cent of all OOH ad spend in New Zealand and almost 60 per cent in Australia, so the channel is growing and the interest in it is there. But standard metrics just aren’t cutting it.

All existing measurement metrics use modelled data from various sources, most of which are a snapshot-in-time prior to the pandemic and almost never from the billboard’s location. They are inaccurate, unreliable and all-round, not fit-for-purpose.

What the industry now needs is a way to track road traffic volumes and footfall, visitor frequency of how many times the same audience comes past the same screens, while also understanding the characteristics of the people who are passing by.

The Next Evolution

Digital OOH is physical that doesn’t suffer from fraudulent bot intervention, is brand safe and unavoidable. But the question remains, how does the industry even begin to look at tracking the numbers and demographics of the thousands of people that pass OOH ads every day?

One way to do this is through a network of site-based cameras combined with number plate recognition software, which can provide audience numbers and demographics through interrogation of the vehicular data. Through this software, advertisers can see the total number of consumers that pass their sites and are offered real time results of audience metrics.

The key advantages of DOOH are that it is impactful, immediate, dynamic and flexible; different messages at different locations when the audience is most present.

This is why it is vital that an audience measurement tool captures data in real-time and specifically from the location of each screen. And with the rise of programmatic DOOH trading, the need for live-streaming data feeds on audience metrics will become even more important.

LENS was the first software provider in this space to offer this data for OOH audiences and is one of the only truly live data platforms for Digital out-of-home.

Already the platform has 5.3 million unique number plates in the database covering 70 per cent of the total vehicles in New Zealand. This depth and level of granularity provides LENS the ability to analyse more accurately and recently than any other OOH measurement platform.

Basic demographics like income and status can be realistically determined by vehicle values based upon make, model and age. However, the main pull for this type of technology, and why it is better than current alternatives is that it removes the guesswork.

And it’s the guesswork around audience accountability that has created a resistance to OOH being able to grow its share of ad spend more rapidly, in the first place.

Is there an opportunity for LENS to combine with other platforms to provide the insight needed to persuade ad spend away from other channels like Online and TV, into OOH?

Over in Australia, the Outdoor Media Association (OMA) has also announced its own upcoming industry standard of measurement for DOOH – Measurement of Outdoor Visibility and Exposure (MOVE) 2.0. Although this software will not be available until 2024, it demonstrates that those within the APAC industry are working to create new heightened standards. This perhaps presents the collaboration opportunity.

Players like LENS and the OMA have tapped into a unique opportunity, one where the industry can now unite and find metrics which can make a real impact to the bottom line. As business begins to rebuild following the pandemic, now is the time for us to bring back trust in the OOH sector.

Through greater audience measurement and media accountability, together the industry can provide marketers with truthful metrics that allow them to take their OOH campaigns to the next level.

And if there is one thing marketers can handle, it’s the truth.


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