CBS Outdoor Seeks New Data to Track Who's Driving By Its Billboards

Heading for Strip Club or Gym? Company Worked With Dash Labs to Gather Metrics

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Outdoor advertising has not exactly been known for its innovations in audience measurement. But CBS Outdoor -- now Outfront Media -- is experimenting with new metrics from Dash Labs that promise to tell advertisers more about driver demographics, the types of cars they drive, and even where they were headed when they drove by a highway billboard.

The companies conducted a three-month test earlier this year that gathered 500,000 pieces of data about the people who drove by an outdoor sign near Los Angeles, according to Jamyn Edis, co-founder of Dash.

Now that most drivers cruise the highways with their phones in tow, new metrics could be on the horizon for outdoor advertisers. Dash Labs gathers data from people who use its Dash mobile app. The company pulls data from a small device -- the same kind used in Progressive's Snapshot program -- that can be installed under the steering wheel of any vehicle made after 1996. Though typically used by mechanics to diagnose car problems, the devices actually track a variety of data points that can be valuable to drivers and corporations.

Car quants use the app to view the data that's generated through that device -- information like vehicle type and diagnostics. In turn, they create data that's valuable to marketers, and in this case, outdoor advertisers. The company can provide data – in anonymized, aggregate form -- on who's in cars driving by a billboard, time of day, and infer whether the driver is headed home, to school, to work, or elsewhere -- like the gym or strip joint.

"We connected with Dash earlier in the year to get acquainted with the emerging start ups in the connected-car space," said Andrew Miller, VP-mobile and digital convergence at Outfront Media.
The research test with Dash was "a proof of concept to better understand the millions of cars that interact with our medium on a day-to-day basis through the data that is extrapolated from the Dash app," added Mr. Miller.

CBS Outdoor is rebranding as Outfront Media officially on Nov. 20, and its webside touts "digital billboards, new technology, and integration with social and mobile media" as part of that shift.

When tracking people in Los Angeles for Outfront, Dash found that 9% of cars in its mobile-app network were headed to the gym as they passed by an Outfront billboard on the San Bernardino Freeway. The data also shows 25% of those tracked drove a Toyota, 65% are female, and 4% of drive-bys were made en route to Bare N Legal Showgirls. Around 9% were trekking to a decidedly more family-friendly destination: a 100-year-old beach-rental home called The Little Blue Cottage in Laguna Beach.

"If we know that at that time of the week 35% of the drivers are female…that's a very powerful way to target digital signage," said Mr. Edis.

According to Outfron't media kit -- still labeled CBS Outdoor -- the company markets the billboard in question by touting its ability to "target upscale tourists visiting the desert oasis of Palm Springs, Calif. and commuters traveling to Phoenix."

The outdoor-ad business has been reliant on numbers from the 81-year-old Traffic Audit Bureau, which upgraded its measurement capabilities in 2010 to offer information showing demographic and ethnographic data on which audiences are likely to see outdoor ads. The system is called Eyes On, and it was intended to bring the industry standard of Daily Effective Circulation into the 21st century.

Outfront approached Dash to help provide "unique data sets for out-of-home," said Mr. Edis. The mobile-app developer has 130,000 users who have downloaded its app, 70% of whom live in the U.S. California represents around 11% of its U.S. user base, with about 5% of those residing in the L.A. metro area, according to Mr. Edis. By those numbers, the L.A. user base is relatively small when it comes to statitstical significance -- just 4,550 people who may or may not have driven by the billboard in question.

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