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OOH, that hurts!

Watchfire Signs

“Advertisers don’t mind spending in a medium that has declined in audience, but they do need audience data. Without the data, OOH won’t be considered. Advertisers are not going to be duped.” ~ Jack Sullivan of OOH Today

A powerful statement reflecting on the challenges that out of home media faces in a post-Covid-19 environment

At the end of the day, whether advertisers are buying a billboard location packed with people waiting for a taxi home, a digital screen on Grayston Drive in Sandton, or a ‘2 for 1’ promo in a food court at a shopping mall, they are buying a relevant audience.

OOH has evolved not only to be a contextual, location-based offering, but fundamentally an audience-based solution delivering impressions. While billboard location and size obviously play a role in noting and brand recall, without an audience, even the biggest building wrap is just some very expensive wallpaper.

The Covid-19 crisis has put a spotlight on the OOH industry for its lack of ability to provide any real time or actionable insights for advertisers, specifically with regards to audience data. Without audience data there is no way to properly qualify and quantify value in the medium in a post Covid-19 world or more realistically an intra-Covid-19 world living with reduced traffic and mobility.

Audience metrics

Millions of rands have been spent on research initiatives like the Outdoor Measurement Council’s ROAD survey, which falls spectacularly short in its ability to deliver real-time statistics. Instead it delivers general audience metrics to calculate GRPs.

But what advertisers and media owners alike need to understand is the total audience being delivering pre-Covid-19 and the audiences delivered Post-Covid-19. When did audiences start to come back? Where is the trending going? How soon to full recovery?


Read more: Taking the pulse of media industry research


It’s not just roadside billboard data that is lacking: mall media companies are failing to leverage available data and analytics to help advertisers buy more effectively and ultimately get better in-market results. Mall media owners are for the most part not even able to provide accurate total ‘foot traffic’ data for their malls, never mind per site data and the deeper demographic data, purchase behaviour and insights that can be derived from wi-fi networks and other mobile attribution technologies in shopping centres.

Whether through reduced lockdown restrictions or general caution from the public, traffic volumes and commuter activity will take time to return to the levels that we saw before 26 March 2020. It is probable that traffic volumes and traffic behaviour on the road and in retail and travel nodes will not be returning to normal immediately.

So, with the shift in behaviour, OOH media owners and research councils like the OMC need to quantify and qualify the value that it brings to advertisers, with a specific focus on actionable insights through real-time data. We must understand how we can track those shifts and trends to help advertisers make more informed buying decisions on OOH media going forward.

Data and insights needed

It is the equivalent of comparing a smart watch and a standard analog watch. Both can tell me that I took 52 minutes to run 10km route. But the smart watch can give me my heart rate, average speed, calories burnt and other metrics that can help me measure performance and if necessary, change my training plan, change my route and even tell me to get some sleep and try again tomorrow.

Likewise, advertisers buying OOH particularly digital OOH (DOOH) need data and insights that can assist them to optimise, adjust and improve their campaigns.

At the core of it, the OOH industry needs to do better. For a long time, the OOH industry has been aware of the need to expedite research and the need to extract accurate audience data for advertisers. Historically this has been largely ignored by media owners because…well…there was always going to be traffic wasn’t there?

Source: Alasdair Muller

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