Marketers Want More Progress on Outdoor Metrics and Technology

'We Can't Even Touch Broadcast Without Those Tools' Among Issues Heard at Outdoor Ad Conference

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Outdoor buying agencies and media companies aren't the only ones who would like to see more progress from the Traffic Audit Bureau's Eyes On metrics system. Leading marketers voiced the need for increased measurement and more digital flexibility from their outdoor partners at the Outdoor Advertising Association of America's National Convention on today in Miami.

Stevie Benjamin, MillerCoors' media director, said she's pleased with the industry's progress with Eyes On thus far as a planning tool, but would like to see more cooperation among vendors so that it's easier to buy outdoors on a comparable basis across the industry. About 15% of vendors still have not signed on for the service. Eyes On also isn't available for the out-of-home industry's transit sector.

"In an ideal world we would have the full industry incorporated in Eyes On and hopefully that's where we're moving," Ms. Benjamin said.

Kerri Farrell, media director for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, said outdoor should aspire to have more standardization and performance-based tools. If TV has Nielsen and commercial ratings , why can't outdoor?

"We can't even touch broadcast without those tools," Ms. Farrell said. "With digital we can track the return on our engagement and even the cost per click. If Eyes On isn't giving you what you need, go ahead and commission some research. Disney is huge on research -- we have two different dedicated teams. It is something that's important in trying to determine who do we go to and what do we do next."

Nancy Ryan, director-integration at Allstate, said the insurance marketer is always looking for outdoor campaigns and sports-themed promotions that can enhance paid promotions with earned media. "Eyes On would allow us to get more targeted to the consumers we want to reach," she said. "Should we start to do more local? The answer is always changing. Good ideas get funded. We're here and want to listen to what you have."

The marketers' call for improved measurement came a day after the conference heard other speakers say insight was more important than more metrics. "Business insecurity has now resulted in an overemphasis on superior analytics," said Larry Light, president-CEO of the brand consultancy Arcature, on Tuesday. "Metrics will not prove the value of out of home. Metrics will justify the nature of the debate. But insight will provide the value."

Marketers said Wednesday that they also want more digital signs. Of the 150,000-plus billboards in the U.S., only 4,000 are expected to be digital by the end of 2011. "There's permit issues, there's capital issues, but the digital transformation didn't happen overnight and it didn't happen as quickly as we would've liked," MillerCoors' Ms. Benjamin said. "There's going to be a lot of progress for 2011. It's the right direction but we need to keep moving."

She added that she would like to see more demographic-specific knowledge among her media partners, particularly in a market like New York. Knowing the Latin market isn't enough -- outdoor companies need to know where to find different sectors. "If we were to come to a vendor asking for a specific Puerto Rican plan and a specific Dominican plan, could that be delivered? Eighteen percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic, but it's over 20% for our core consumer," Ms. Benjamin said. "What we find is there's still headroom. We cannot grow our share without that multicultural consumer."

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