Out-of-Home Truth Metrics – Do They Exist?

Article By LUMO – Blog – 3rd October 2019

Outdoor advertising is the oldest form of non-verbal communication in the world. It likely started way back in ancient times when early humans would express themselves by sharing their dreams, journeys, fears and observations by painting on cave walls. Or perhaps it was the Egyptians who inscribed on their ancient monuments.

The invention of the printing press in the 15th century allowed people to communicate through printed handbills. The advent of the automotive age meant that people could transport themselves further and further away from their home-base and in doing so, began to rely upon billboard signs to help inform them of places to stay, eat and refresh.

The age of the automobile from the early 20th century, rapidly changed the way in which we moved, we were much more mobile, which soon led to companies advertising a much wider range of services and products to travellers. Towns and cities would use billboard advertising to attract visitors. Brands soon cottoned onto the reach and cost-effectiveness of billboard advertising that seemed at the time to have no limits.

The cost to build plywood billboards was cheap, they were easy to install and local authorities offered few barriers (boy has that changed). It would have literally been like the wild west with billboard owners, printers and advertisers alike leveraging the burgeoning new advertising frontier.

However, as we entered the 21st century, local and road authorities began to force their policies and controls on the busy industry and forced rules and compliance on this generally unregulated industry. It was the beginning of the OOH industry recognising the need to grow up, take responsibility for their actions and even look to provide some accountability to their advertising clients and the general public.

In Auckland around 2005, the industry even faced potential annihilation when some councillors threatened to outlaw advertising signage. As absurd as that proposal sounds (and fortunately, the industry responded quickly to help create a compromise via a billboard bylaw designed to reduce signage clutter and better control the process for new developments), the industry had to accept some responsibility through their laissez-faire attitude and in some quarters, greed.

Most recently, technological advances and access to fast broadband has evolved the OOH channel by it creating a DOOH channel to now be at the vanguard of another sustainable growth phase that could see the overall channel in New Zealand grow from ~5.5% share of all ad revenue to 7.5%, 10%, perhaps even 20% or more. This is not an unrealistic prediction given the ongoing pace of infrastructure development and the creative, dynamic & interactive capabilities digital out-of-home has to offer.

However, before we get ahead of ourselves, I think it is critical for the OOH industry to take a breath and carefully think about truth metrics. This idea that we take collective and individual responsibility for always only sharing truthful and honest metrics to our agency and advertiser clients. Data and methods that are independently supplied and/or verifiable.

Do we want to risk the perception that by the actions of a few, our industry steps back 20 years to the old cowboy days? No we don’t. But we as an industry share this responsibility with our agencies and advertisers. Agencies and advertisers need to demand more from us operators, especially around transparency and accounting for our audience metrics.

It seems too easy just to accept a traffic count or a photograph of a sign as the truth. It is ultimately the responsibility of the outdoor media operator to be truthful (of course) but media agencies especially need to be the gatekeeper of truth metrics and ensure that what they are recommending to their clients (regardless of media channel) meets the brief, is accurate, good value and uses truth metrics.

Recently, LUMO produced its first Real-Time Traffic Insights report which uses HD cameras connected to smart software licensed by AdMobilize to collect data by location, in real-time that produces the most accurate, current and transparent truth metrics for each of our digital screens. It has been almost three years since we started collecting, analysing, training and improving the accuracy and stability of this leading-edge technology and now we’re happy to start sharing in detail.

The release of this inaugural quarterly report is a tangible signal to our clients that we are serious when it comes to truth metrics and we will work collaboratively with the wider OOH industry players to help establish new standards and develop a plan to advocate for DOOH as a distinct media channel in its own right and help align us all to moving forward as quickly and efficiently as we can.

It is time to look back to prepare for the future; to avoid lazy short-cuts, learn from our past mistakes and work hard to optimise this exciting new digital chapter for the out-of-home industry.

These are the opinions and thoughts of Phil Clemas, our co-founder and CEO. If you have any constructive feedback, please do not hesitate to email him at Phil@lumodigital.nz