AdSpace, With Nielsen, Sets Out to Quantify Its Audience

As Out-of-Home Industry Works Toward Universal Metric

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With TV switching to commercial ratings and radio finally making the transition from quarterly diaries to monthly ratings, the demand for media metrics that capture a more complete picture of an audience's behavior couldn't be higher. Next up: out of home.
For AdSpace, 47% of all mall traffic reported seeing its ads, a good portion of which is comprised of its target teen audience.
For AdSpace, 47% of all mall traffic reported seeing its ads, a good portion of which is comprised of its target teen audience.

A $6.8 billion industry in 2006, out-of-home advertising has never had anything resembling a universal metric to measure the audiences seeing the ads on platforms ranging from billboards to digital signs to bus stops. The Out of Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB), an organization of digital outdoor companies, is currently working with its agency partners to develop a solid metric for later this year.

Survey in upscale malls
But AdSpace, a mall advertising company currently in 75 upscale malls throughout the country, got a jump on its fellow OVAB members in April when it partnered with Nielsen on a study that would provide more detailed ad-engagement data. The study aims to show how many people are watching the ads, and for how long. For AdSpace, it turned out to be 47% of all mall traffic, a good portion of which is comprised of its target teen audience. Of those 47% traffic views, the average person viewed an ad 3.3 times, a number significantly more accurate than previous studies could have recorded, said Bill Ketchum, exec VP-chief marketing officer.

"It's so easy to say I just don't believe it, and then that gets into a difficult conversation because how do you prove it?" he said. "Once we had the Nielsen data it didn't seem to be a big issue [for clients.]"

The OVAB agency board has been particularly vocal in getting a grip on the definition of ad engagement with such a broad range of venues in out-of-home. "Media in the place-based environment actually tend to have a pretty high engagement level, but how do you price that?" Mr. Ketcham said.
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'Positive consumer reaction'
"OVAB has formed a research and standards committee which is really dedicated to developing some common language and common definition around research metrics," OVAB President Kim Norris said. "Nielsen is looking into studies within this space as are Arbitron and other companies. The ways in which the consumer is interacting with these screens and the frequency shows there's a very positive consumer reaction to their presence, in the malls in this case."

Brian Ludwick, VP-planning director, Carat, whose boss David Verklin serves on the OVAB agency board, added, "It's easier when you've got a plan for a media company and everybody's being measured by one researcher."

The Nielsen study, he added, brings "an added dimension of accountability and ROI to AdSpace, which should make any advertiser feel more confident in this medium."

Mr. Ludwick sees a lot of growth in out-of-home advertising in the next five to 10 years as it becomes more interactive and less invasive. "It's the only medium you can't turn off," he said.
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