Foundations For The Next Frontier – Verifying Data In A Complex OOH World

Times Square in New York City

In this opinion piece, Joe Copley – MD of Digital Out-of-Home reporting platform, Seedooh, explores a very prominent issue that affects the entire marketing industry: verification of data…

Advertising campaigns around the world are becoming increasingly complex to administer and to measure.

As always, the relentless search for competitive advantage is driving new developments in strategy, planning, execution, reporting and data analysis – all moving us towards a highly interconnected future.

Flexibility, connectivity, adtech, martech and data will eventually fuse together with trusted AI and simplify things, fuelled by the best possible inputs.

But in the meantime, it’s complicated.

This trend is particularly evident for Out of Home (OOH) media, including Digital Out of Home (DOOH), which has its own unique set of challenges when it comes to standardised reporting – a prerequisite for automation. Australia is one of the most developed OOH markets globally, so it’s not surprising the issue of verification in OOH advertising has been a prominent focus for the last few years.

OOH companies have invested significantly in their audience data capabilities, but also realised that having their campaign playout independently verified is critical. Confidence that campaigns ran where and when they were booked to run, to be seen by carefully considered audiences, provides a heightened level of assurance to agencies and advertisers making a growing investment in the sector.

This verification helps the OOH companies drive sales, as their customers have increasing confidence in the validity and ROI offered by the format.

The requirement for independent verification is an emerging reality that is starting to resonate in other countries across the globe, for obvious reasons. It is also being driven by the World Federation of Advertisers’ Global Media Charter of 2018, which clearly states: “We do not accept self-reported data”. Reporting challenges are the same everywhere, so OOH media owners and publishers face the same necessity to standardise, connect and independently report campaign playout at scale.

WFA members and other advertisers who want this verified data will drive the replacement of ‘self-reporting’ processes in all media channels, and we believe some basic principles should apply:

  • Data should be verified by a business which has no conflicted interests or involvement in campaign buying, selling or delivery processes.
  • Independence from the supply chain and as a business is not enough. The methodology used to verify campaign playout must be transparent and aligned to independent standards. And the ‘independent verifiers’ should also be subject to third-party reviews to further build confidence with supply chain participants.
  • The methodology used to provide complete transparency should not add unnecessary risk and effort to recreate a new set of data, when that data already exists and can be verified beyond doubt. Nor, ideally, should it be a methodology which has already been subject to fraudulent misrepresentation (to the tune of billions of dollars annually) in the digital world.
  • Access to properly verified, connected campaign playout data should be a ‘hygiene factor’, available at scale for nominal cost, to all participants, in every campaign, on every format, in every market
  • The solution should be built for the journey – scalable and ready to deal with programmatic as well as traditional bookings – with a mature API, enabling connections to other location and time-based data systems of the present and the future.

The technical requirements of such a solution are significant, but the systems used in multimillion-dollar networks are very sophisticated. In Australia alone, these systems control billions of play events, on tens of thousands of screens every month. Confidence in data reported at this scale revolves around how one sophisticated source data system connects to another with minimal to no human intervention, and how the data is verified once it’s been connected.

Controls play a critical role in verification, and are necessary to eliminate the risks associated with altering the truth and accuracy in data. All Seedooh connected data sources are subject to controls which are aligned with global best practice standards, to drive confidence in the completeness and accuracy of data. There is no opportunity for either the buy side or the sell side to manipulate the data inappropriately without obviously breaching the controls – and such action would be immediately apparent.

While no two companies’ technology stacks and configurations are exactly the same, the core systems, processes and data-points that support them are often common. However, the problems that sellers and buyers face in extracting, compiling and sharing post-campaign reporting data are almost identical in every market. In Australia, Seedooh now does this for them, automatically.

Strategic thinkers on both the buy and sell sides recognise that there is value in introducing new levels of accountability to OOH market participants. Take our platform as an example: once connected to Seedooh at an enterprise level, a publisher accepts that all campaign data will be reported as it happened, including whether it over- or under-delivered, or never delivered at all. It takes a good level of confidence in your network, systems and people to make that step. But it must be made.

Then there’s the other question – who pays for this? Should advertisers pay extra, to have confidence that they got what they paid for? Should agencies pay, so that their clients know that their budget achieved what was approved? Or should media owners (or publishers) pay, in order to prove that they delivered what they sold?

There are no easy answers, but our conversations across the industry both here and overseas suggest they will come in time as stakeholders work their way through the issues, as best practices emerge and as robust standards are established. Ultimately, improved efficiency and confidence both add significant value to all – and while it is not available at no charge, a nominal cost structure is a good place to start.

We have no doubt that independent verification is one of the next critical developments in the growth of the OOH industry, and since 2015 Seedooh has been building and proving a software platform that verifies all campaign playout data at scale – every play scheduled, every play delivered, every installation, on any format. It automates arduous processes and improves confidence via independent verification – made available to all campaign participants in close to real time via an event-streamed dashboard.

Most importantly, this all runs in the background, enabling businesses to focus on their strategic objectives, boosted by increased confidence in their data and the effectiveness of their campaigns. A new level of automation, connectivity and confidence will both stabilise and stimulate, in an increasingly complex world.



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