The 20-month-old OVAB was founded in January 2007 as a way to create standards and practices for buying and selling the emerging digital out-of-home media category, which includes everything from elevators (Captivate, the Wall Street Journal Office Network) to taxis (NBC Everywhere's Taxi TV) to health clubs and airlines (Ideacast). Patrick Quinn, CEO of PQ Media, predicts the U.S. digital out-of-home media marketplace will grow 11.2% to $2.43 billion in 2008.
OVAB president Suzanne Alecia said the goal of the new metrics is to elevate digital out-of-home and place-based media to a strategic planning position for marketers and media buyers. "One of the things we've learned in forming OVAB is that in order to be on a plan, you actually have to be talked about a year before that buy actually gets executed," she said in a keynote outlining the new metrics guidelines. "Because we've been so disparate, talking different languages, [agencies and marketers] just haven't had the time to wrap their heads around it."
The new guidelines are divided into three dimensions -- presence, notice and dwell time. Presence refers to the actual environment of the ad vehicle, where the screen is both visible, and if applicable, audible. Notice determines whether or not viewers actually saw the ad, similar to the Traffic Audit Bureau's forthcoming eyes-on metric for traditional out-of-home and billboards. Dwell time is the amount of time spent in the ad vehicle's zone.
Individual ad impressions will then be measured under the Average Unit Audience, a composite number that measures how many times an ad was seen within a content rotation, similar to Nielsen's C3 rating for TV, or those households that will watch the ads within three days of a program's original air date
Creating a common language
Prior to the OVAB guidelines, media vendors in digital out-of-home had to rely on individual case studies with trusted research companies like Nielsen and Arbitron. The OVAB guidelines, Ms. Alecia noted, are not intended to replace the need for any third-party measurement company but rather create a common language of currency for buyers and sellers to negotiate upon.
Now that digital out-of-home has its first official set of metrics, the next step is determining where its future ad dollars will come from. Earlier this year, Publicis Groupe's MediaVest moved some $100 million in broadcast TV dollars from clients like Procter & Gamble, Kraft and Coca-Cola to cinema-based vendors National Cinemedia and Screenvision.
But a panel of media agency planners said the agencies have already begun to structurally organize themselves to buy video more holistically, whether it's on TV, online or in emerging media like digital out-of-home. "We've taken a structural reorganization where we tried to organize ... planners and activation specialists in a group that serves like-minded clients," said Rob Jayson, exec VP-planning director for Zenith Media. "Now planners sit with the network TV people, print people and digital people so we can surround our learning with each set of clients."
A separate panel of brand marketers discussed the role digital out-of-home media is currently playing in an economy where their dollars are required to work even harder, often at the expense of experimental ad budgets.
John Marson, senior manager of media services for Kraft Foods, said although the cost-per-thousand viewers of digital out-of-home campaigns remains competitive with other media -- most comparable to cable TV -- there are other value propositions at stake when vendors approach his company with fancy video technology. "Their biggest asset isn't the hardware, it's the consumers. If they understand that asset to the nth degree and can help us reach them, that's what we're willing to pay for."