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Friday, February 11, 2005

Outdoor Moves Toward Consensus For New Ad Metric, Could Gain Vs. TV, Print

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Outdoor Moves Toward Consensus For New Ad Metric, Could Gain Vs. TV, Print

by Joe Mandese, Friday, Feb 11, 2005 8:00 AM EST

IN AS SOON AS A few months, the outdoor advertising industry may have a new method of audience measurement in place giving it a higher standard than what is currently used for either electronic or print media. That standard, VAI, or visibility adjusted impacts, is regarded as a more precise metric of actual ad exposure because it measures, as industry guru Erwin Ephron has suggested, "a likelihood to see" as opposed to the "opportunity to see or hear" used by TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and online media.

The outdoor media industry still has a couple of big hurdles to cross before it can gain a consensus on exactly how to do that, as was evident this week during a confidential meeting in New York this week, at which Nielsen Media Research updated key industry players on the results of a test it is conducting in Chicago of a new, high-tech outdoor audience measurement system utilizing global positioning satellite technology. While no conclusion was arrived at the meeting on how the data should be used for calculating outdoor audience estimates, or when Nielsen would officially deploy the service or roll it out to other markets, executives attending the meeting said it is moving in those directions.

The central debate among Nielsen, advertisers, agencies, outdoor media vendors, an the industry's Traffic Audit Bureau (TAB), is exactly how to factor a probable size of outdoor the outdoor audience based on VAI, a concept that has been successfully utilized in the U.K. for several years. The idea is to create a U.S. industry standard for VAIs, would index the average percentage of pedestrian and mobile consumers who actually make eye contact with an outdoor ad, and use that for calculating the media impressions generated by an outdoor advertising schedule.

The TAB currently has requests out to several research companies for proposals on a primary research study that would help establish that factor.

A bifurcated market in which the TAB would continue to produce bulk outdoor audience estimates known as "daily effective circulation," or DEC, and Nielsen would generate demographic estimates based on the exposure of individuals to the data. What remains unclear is how agencies, advertisers and vendors would integrate the data, to develop their planning, buying and sales estimates.

Under one scenario, planners and buyers would utilize the data in a similar way they do now with magazine and newspaper research, gleaning demographic data from MRI for magazines and Scarborough for newspapers and combining that with circulation data from the audit bureaus. In that scenario, media planners would utilize the new Nielsen data to plan the demographic reach of their outdoor media buys, but would use the TAB's traffic audits as the currency for negotiating deals.

In another scenario, the TAB and Nielsen might develop a more integrated approach that fuses their two databases together in a way that simultaneously generates demographic and trading currency data for outdoor advertising buys.

A number of industry executives, including both buyers and sellers of outdoor advertising, have predicted that the shift to VAIs, as well as Nielsen's more accountable method for electronically measuring persons exposure to outdoor advertising, could greatly increase outdoor's share of total advertising spending, which has begun to slip in recent years and is now behind online in terms of the major ad media.

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