What Traffic Congestion, Car Speeds Mean for Outdoor Ads
Are you likelier to pay attention to a billboard on the side of the road when you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic than if you’re driving at normal speed?
To better estimate how many people are actually looking at outdoor ads, the industry’s independent auditor, The Traffic Audit Bureau for Media Measurement Inc., is releasing the first major revision to its out of home ratings system to include new data points such as traffic congestion and vehicle speed. As part of the new system, TAB will also for the first time measure individual spots on digital billboards as well as ads posted on buses and trains.
Rising competition from digital media has made it more important for traditional media to improve their audience measures, a point TAB CEO Joe Philport made in an interview.
“With mobile and digital, the need for accountability increases every day and the need to have numbers that align with the numbers that advertisers are using to assess other media increases,” Mr. Philport said.
Historically, the outdoor industry had relied on a metric known as “daily effective circulation,” which estimated the average number of people or cars that passed a billboard and were potentially exposed to its ad. TAB in 2010 released its own ratings system to more accurately estimate impressions, or how many people actually looked at an ad, an effort to help advertisers better gauge their return on investment on outdoor media.
The latest iteration of TAB’s out of home ratings incorporates traffic congestion data from big data company Inrix as well as additional eye-tracking field research that takes into account the amount of time it took to pass an ad and the amount of time the consumer was in contact with an ad to measure whether the ad was noticed or not. This expands upon the variety of data that TAB already employs in its metrics, including traffic volumes from transit authorities and research from earlier eye-tracking studies that assessed how an ad’s size and distance from the road affected the likelihood it would be seen.
“Out of home is still a relatively small medium and it presents measurement challenges because the inventory is dispersed,” Mr. Philport said. He noted that the outdoor category includes many different formats that require different types of measurement techniques.
The enhancements to TAB’s out of home ratings systems are meant to address ad movement, such as ads that rotate on digital billboards or move through other markets on buses. A digital billboard typically rotates between six and 10 ads at a time and those ads can be on screen for varying levels of time. TAB previously measured digital billboards as if the ad was static, but will now report ratings for each spot in rotation.
To measure transit ads – which include ads on the exterior of buses, on the interior of trains and at transit stations – TAB also incorporated traffic information around a bus’s route and counts of passengers and commuters on public transportation.
Outdoor’s “true potential has yet to be realized by many advertisers, they’re still thinking of it using an old paradigm of out of home instead of a contemporary one,” Mr. Philport said. One major selling point for billboards and other outdoor media is the ability to hyper-localize ads.
The outdoor advertising industry has posted single-digit growth rates in recent years – a contrast to the struggles of print advertising and other traditional media. Interpublic Group’s research and ad buying unit Magna Global projects outdoor advertising revenue to increase 4% this year, a rate similar to last year’s. Magna Global expects out-of-home media to maintain its 7% market share in the next five years.
Digital formats are an important part of the outdoor industry’s steady growth. Digital formats made up 10% of out of home revenues, including cinema, last year and Magna Global expects digital’s share of outdoor advertising to rise to 22% by 2019.