No matter which country or research firm tackles the task of quantifying outdoor audience behavior, the long-term goals are the same. First, the measurement must serve as a solid base for advertiser and agency decisions regarding media investment and placement. Next, it should provide a basis for checking delivery against media purchased and verify the media plans. Finally, it should be a surrogate to judge campaign effectiveness within the marketing mix by medium and vehicle. Overall, the measurement must provide a reliable currency and consequently a means to assess ROI for both the advertiser and the seller.
Audience Measurement – the reality check
By offering these barometers of media effectiveness, outdoor would stand to gain significantly higher growth rates than other media. This would be a result of improved accountability, the provision of weekly target audience reach, frequency and cost-per-thousand target audience. However, the audience measurement scene in outdoor in India appears to be a flux. Exchange4media spoke to key people in the industry to get their take on it.
Soumitra Bhattacharya, President, MOMS asserts, “Audience measurement in Europe, in other words PostAR, ESOMAR and US-TAB have managed to evolve over time and the foundation has been the inputs from existing infrastructure - census data on population, traffic counts, hinterland to city commuting traffic etc. Such data is available because different governments sponsor these studies for research and updation. The audience measurement approach ranges from diary keeping methods to sophisticated GPS units held by the sample TG.”
In sharp contrast, the scene in India is such that there is almost no tool for reliable audience measurement, believes Bhattacharya. He explains, “So far, there is no possible tool for audience measurement in India and the scene consists of mainly claims and counter claims. What’s available is the population census survey, which I would regard as the tip of the iceberg for an audience measurement study. Tools for audience measurement in India are equivalent to luxuries.”
Ogilvy Landscape, the outdoor division of Ogilvy & Mather, has its own say on the matter. JC Giri, Country Head, Ogilvy Landscape believes, “There are only two authentic measurement tools available in India. One is with Portland (the outdoor division of JWT, Group M) and the second is in our custody. The Ogilvy Landscapes tool is based on the principles of OSCAR, which stands for Outdoor Site Classification and Audience Research, a tried and tested model in UK. We in India have added the site mapping and planning software to this research data and have made it more complete. The data and the digital mapping are available in the (8) main metropolitan cities in India and would soon be extended to 12 other cities.
“The OSCAR data gives you the visibility index score which implies a ‘quality score’ for billboards, the traffic count data by traffic junctions and thus for the site on a specified stretch and the load factor by area.”
How would this be different from the audience measurement scene in the UK and the US? Giri replies, “For one, outdoor research in the UK and US is much more evolved. The research data is available at three levels. The POSTAR outdoor measurement model delivers the quality score for billboards and the traffic count. POSTAR also gives the number of seconds, the average passers viewing the said site and it takes into account both the pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Plus in these regions, they have travel patterns mapped for various target groups - thus helping planning and brand mapping. Travel patterns are tracked using dairy method in some markets and using electronic GPRS in some. They also have creative measurements wherein there is a research module that measures the effectiveness of the creative that’s being tested, and used by select media owners.”
Arminio Ribeiro, President, Portland India asserts that OOH specialist agencies and Portland India’s extensive PSV (Portland Site Visibility) occupy a vital role in terms of being able to calculate a realistic audience passing each site. He states, “If you think about POSTAR (the industry research in the UK), gross audiences are netted down by different physical characteristics of panels and this nettling down is always expressed as percentage factor. The gross audience figures come from traffic counts in the first place. Data collected via Portland’s PSV is able to give a strong indication of the percentage factor to be applied for each individual site. In addition, Portland has enough data about traffic counts in the Indian market, and together with PSV information this is on par with audience measurement systems in other parts of Europe.”
He sums up saying, “Traffic counts have been done and are on a par with the rest of the world. An estimate of ‘net’ audience has the potential to be on par but I think what still needs to be done in India is a travel survey so that travel patterns of consumers can be matched against poster site locations.”
Return on investment – no syndicated study to authenticate it
At the end of the day, how can an advertiser determine whether he’s getting ample returns on the investment he’s making? Is there any possible yardstick to measure the ROI acquired on outdoor within India?
Bhattacharya opines, “I don’t think there is any such yardstick in India today. But we strongly believe that there can be. The key here is a syndicated study to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising outdoor and the periodic updation of data. A syndicated study would remove biases and unlock the library of knowledge. Industry vetting the methodology etc. would help acceptance and use of the research findings and recommendations.”
A syndicated study? But in a fragmented industry, would it be easy to establish a ‘coming together’ of sorts? Ribeiro from Portland puts forward his thoughts on the subject. He says, “The exact ROI for outdoor is difficult to gauge even in the UK, but some of the more compelling case studies actually monitored changes in sales patterns, changes in the market share etc. The Colgate study comes to mind, which is available on the Portland website. In India, some analysis may have been done but there would have to be a greater number of case studies to demonstrate to any user of outdoor.”
Giri asserts, “A very limited yardstick is available today. Using the Net OTS figures available for specific sites, we could use the data and the cost of the hoarding sites and derive a Cost Per Thousand (CPT) reach.”
As per the word of these experts, a high level of co-operation from media owners is absolutely essential to build a reliable industry database in India, within the realm of outdoor. Though, it is more of a local medium, due to its disorganized nature, data collection would be a tough job. However, if outdoor players want it to be given more weightage, facts and figures are the need of the hour.