Out-of-home media and accountability – the push for proof

Agencies and brands are rightly seeking better knowledge and performance reporting to enable confident decision-making in OOH campaigns. Dan Hill discusses how a traditional media business is moving into a modern world underpinned by data and measurement.

This article is was sponsored by Val Morgan Outdoor to let readers know about its DART audience measurement system, and is part of Marketing’s special focus on the out-of-home sector.

Daniel Hill 150 BWOut-of-home (OOH) media operates in people’s days where decisions need to be made and where they’re motivated to make them. Good vendors have understood the audience for years. In 2018, we can develop a deeper understanding than ever of where they are, what they are thinking and what they are doing. They need to make decisions and be informed with clear and confident messaging.

In this environment, they are hungry for truth.

In a recent study, we explored how changing values are affecting what the Australian population wants from brands. An emerging theme was uncertainty. Australians want to believe in truth and their most valued traits were honesty and knowledge. We are losing trust in the media, the institutions, even the Australian cricket team! OOH and cinema advertising are some of the most trusted sources of information for consumers. That says a lot about the channel as a source of information, and to better leverage its capabilities, we’re working on understanding what the consumer sees as the value of this proposition.

 

What does this mean for OOH?

OOH is becoming a bigger player in the media mix, and with more focus and higher performance, comes higher scrutiny. The industry’s focus has turned to addressing trust and accountability.

Marketers and agencies want trust too. They need to be armed with the best knowledge to make clearer and more confident decisions. Where does that leave outdoor? Outdoor requires high levels of verification and, as an industry, we realise that. We welcome the verification element that’s coming to the table. The minimum expectation of anyone spending a dollar with a media publisher is that they’re getting what they pay for. What is being promised? What is being delivered?

Our sector is growing, clients have been allocating more of their media budget to outdoor, and the media and the outdoor industry are working together to make sure that the spend on this channel is justifiable. We haven’t done enough until this point. We recognise it. Some people are dancing around that, but we’re just going to go ahead and have a good swing.

 

VMO BP OOH

 

Collaboration

To increase accountability, collaboration between owner, agency and client has been at the fore of our plans.

Communication is key to all this. Collaborative campaign management – along with technology and the ability to gather data and provide metrics – enables accountability. We are working closer with clients to get an outcome and deliver full value to our advertisers. To get their money’s worth, it stands to reason that marketers, brands and agencies have to pull back the curtains in terms of what they’re after.

The days of obtuse briefs are long gone. Agencies, clients and media owners are working far more collaboratively than they have at any time in my 20-year career. From an agency point of view, it used to be ‘please don’t talk to my client directly.’

Now it’s ‘how do we do this together?’ That’s a huge step forward. It isn’t acceptable to force clients into buying everything you have on offer and pray that it hits the audience, just so it meets your own objectives of full occupancy on inventory. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. That model is set up to benefit the supplier, not the buyer.

Clients are demanding to minimise wastage and to prove you’re delivering the audience you have promised. That is the new model and it is imperative as an industry we are delivering that to our clients.

 

Rich measurement

I’m a big fan of making sure that people understand that what they’re buying and what they’re getting are the same thing. I’m a big fan of verification.

90% of audience briefs these days require an audience insight. Until now, not enough has been done with existing data and insights in developing tools that allow agencies to better plan, optimise and prove campaign effectiveness. In 2014, we recognised that current outdoor methodologies lacked the sophistication to capture audience insights engagement in digital outdoor so we developed DART, our proprietary digital outdoor audience measurement tool.

The industry, however still doesn’t have a standardised measurement tool for digital. It is complex – retail outdoor in particular – and to date there isn’t an effective measurement tool across the whole industry.

Almost four years ago now we launched the DART. Since its launch, we have been using it to measure engagement. The software enables us to aggregate anonymous data from millions of Australians, measuring engagement through facial engagement recognition technology. Right now, we can provide demographic, gender and traffic data. We’re going to use that as a reach and frequency planning tool. In our new audiences insights platform, DART 360, we’ll be overlaying behavioural insights, with transactional data and product scan data with the actual numbers of people going through the shopping centres. This starts to give different layers of understanding of how you’re going to get to the right audience in the outdoor space.

We’ve listened to clients, studied the Australian psyche, explored the best data platforms, and we’ll also be adding financial tracking information from one financial institution. All of a sudden you start to pull together a whole bunch of data sources. It’s a plausible and reasonable way of measuring something that right now is unmeasurable.

As I say, there’s an arms race on. Imagine being a media planner or buyer, you’ve got five companies coming and selling you a similar product – a screen. But now our focus is on the audience and their mindset, where they are located when you advertise to them.

We’re trying to put more science behind it, so we can provide something that’s more justifiable than simply ‘this shopping centre tells us that a million people walk through here in a day’, which is pretty flimsy. DART 360 will deliver to clients a targeted, effective and efficient way for you to maximise audience opportunity and minimise wastage.

What we’re applying here with the outdoor space is the ability to plan and optimise a campaign as you go, and then prove its effectiveness. To do so, we need to look at what was the real-time audience – how many are going through the locations. If we say one million, we plan and optimise to get a million, then we show the agencies and clients: ‘here’s how we did it’ and that’s part of the verification process.

Both of our businesses – cinema and outdoor – are traditional businesses that need to move into a modern world that’s underpinned by data and audience measurement. One thing I’m trying very hard to encourage is simplification. We could all disappear into the black hole of machines and data. It can tend to get very complicated as we disappear into that hole, so making it easier to transact business and justify the value added to the marketing process by using digital outdoor is where we’re headed.

The OOH business is quite interesting in that there are a lot of people who’ve been in the industry for a long time. I can’t think of any industry where there’s been as much opportunity for innovation and change. The next 12 months will see very significant changes for anyone who’s in a career in this vertical right now.

 

Dan Hill is CEO at Val Morgan Outdoor.

 

VMO specialises in measurable digital OOH and audience engagement.