NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The Traffic Audit Bureau, the leading out-of-home media-measurement organization, is finally ready to release its more accountable metrics to the marketplace. After four years of development and a year's worth of false starts, TAB President-CEO Joe Philport said the organization expects to have the "Eyes On" data available in all 200 of its audited markets by early March 2009.
Eyes On will measure the exact number of people who interact with a specific outdoor ad, whether it's a billboard, a sign on a bus shelter or a video screen in a mall. The currency will use a combination of traffic counts, consumer-travel surveys, circulation data and a new eye-tracking technology to determine the number of eyeballs on each outdoor ad. The outdoor industry's previous standard measurement currency, daily effective circulation (DEC), measured average foot traffic in outdoor venues.
"Eyes On makes us the first medium to move from people who might be seeing the medium to people who actually are," Mr. Philport said at the Ad Club's inaugural Outdoor Advertising Event in New York.
TAB will become the second organization to bring new metrics to the out-of-home industry in recent months, following the Out of Home Advertising Bureau. The 2-year-old organization unveiled its new measurement guidelines to advertisers and agencies in an OVAB Summit in New York in October.
Unlike TAB's metrics, which are more impression-based, OVAB's guidelines -- recommended but not standardized practices for advertisers and agencies to use when buying out-of-home media -- are more engagement-based. The new OVAB 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 TAB's Eyes On. Dwell time is the amount of time spent in the ad vehicle's zone.
Measuring the rapidly growing digital out-of-home marketplace has become a top priority for the out-of-home industry, which is projected by PQ Media to grow 11% to $2.43 billion in ad spend by the end of 2008.
Bullish for 2009
Mr. Philport remained similarly bullish on out-of-home's prospects for 2009, based on advertisers' continued efforts to find more efficient alternatives to their media buys.
"This is a perfect time for our medium to invest in infrastructure. We have an opportunity to grow faster than any other medium," he said.
Media buyers and marketers are excited about Eyes On's potential, even if the currency conversion will be like comparing apples to oranges.
"The conversation is going to change from mass tonnage to targeted communities," said John Marson, senior manager-media planning at Kraft Foods. "Out-of-home will be bought like magazines, but you'll still have the equal strategic footing like you did before."
Jack Sullivan, senior VP-out-of-home media director for Starcom, added that advertisers will have to work harder to find scaleable audiences in their outdoor buys as they move from projected audiences to actual audiences. "The medium is trimming a lot of the fat, so the [cost-per-thousand-viewer] is going to be very high."