After a tough year for the out-of-home industry, the world is starting to open up – and so are advertiser budgets.
Digital out-of-home (DOOH) alone is projected to grow 20% next year, according to MAGNA. There are an estimated 1.25 million digital screens in the US across billboards, street furniture, service kiosks, screens in bars, screens in the back of taxis and place-based installations in malls, gas stations and office buildings.
Rebound aside, there’s another challenge that has perennially plagued the DOOH industry: the fact that there’s never been a single accepted standard to measure exposure to digital out-of-home media.
Attribution providers have tried to develop solutions, but their efforts have faltered without industry specs to guide them.
“Some took a one-size-fits-all approach, trying to use the exact same methodology for all DOOH venue types without taking in the contextual differences of ad exposure environment into account,” said Eugenie Chen, VP of data and analytics at Vistar Media, a programmatic platform for DOOH advertising. “And some providers took a siloed development approach by building custom solutions tailored to a unique media owner that did not translate across different venue types,”
Chen is the chair of an initiative spearheaded by the Out-of-Home Advertising Association of America to develop a standardized methodology and best practices for measuring consumer exposure to DOOH media.
The project kicked off in January and was briefly derailed by COVID. But on Friday, after gathering industry feedback and multiple roundtable discussions hosted by Vistar, the OAAA released a set of guidelines for how to effectively capture and measure exposed mobile advertising IDs.
Specifically, the guidelines create standards around the required input variables related to venue data, movement data and ad play data.
For example, different inventory types require different inputs, such as the direction a screen is facing. Such information is needed to validate the direction that a mobile device is traveling in relation to an outdoor display.
The OAAA is also setting norms to measure the latitude and longitude coordinates tied to a screen. Location data isn’t distributed equally. A large number of indoor displays, for instance, do not come equipped with lat/long information at the screen level, which can make it harder to determine the distance between an observed mobile device and the center point of a venue.
With that in mind, the most precise way to measure DOOH exposure to an outdoor display is when a mobile device is observed within viewing distance of a screen while an ad plays as the device is moving towards the screen.
But for an indoor display, if a mobile device can’t be observed within the viewing distance of a screen when an ad is playing, perhaps because the network connection isn’t as good inside, an advertiser might have to rely on dwell time within the general viewing area of a venue rather than on GPS.
The hope is that DOOH exposure standards like these will help enhance the reliability of this type of measurement, said Christina Radigan, CMO of the OAAA.
“Credible attribution is critical to driving growth in any channel,” Radigan said. “What’s more, accurately and consistently measuring DOOH exposure will also facilitate greater ease of multitouch attribution research, which is being fueled by programmatic demand-side platforms.”
But there are two interrelated potential clouds on the horizon: anti-tracking privacy platform policies specifically related to curtailing the use of mobile ad IDs, and the resultant lack of scale if consumers don’t opt in.
“We anticipate that there will be some scale challenges, but the key moving forward will be transparency,” Chen said. “As long as providers are transparent about the methodology they are using and the limitations, you can still develop a solution.”
And providers don’t need everyone to opt in, just a representative – and subsequently anonymized – sample.
“Exposure data is inherently not personally identifiable,” Radigan said. “OOH industry participants are interested in knowing how many people have been exposed to out-of-home advertising and perhaps the demographics of such people, but generally have no interest in knowing or connecting to the specific individual.”