Nielsen Outdoor, a newly formed unit of VNU Media Measurement & Information, announced that it will test a metered audience measurement system for outdoor advertising as a first step toward launching a global ratings service for the medium.
The proposed service, which will be pilot tested this month in Johannesburg, South Africa, will provide advertisers, agencies and outdoor media companies with audience information - including reach and frequency data - that is similar to the ratings data that buyers and sellers have used for years to negotiate television and radio advertising rates. The pilot test will be conducted in conjunction with the South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF). The test results will be reviewed by the SAARF Outdoor Council for accuracy, and shared with the Nielsen Outdoor Advisory Council for comment.
The Nielsen Outdoor service will use advanced, proprietary global positioning satellite (GPS) technology from Seattle-based RDP Associates to track motorist and pedestrian exposure to outdoor advertising. Members of a randomly chosen, demographically balanced sample will carry small, battery-operated meters that will automatically track their movements at 20-second intervals, making the system almost completely passive. This information will then be matched to a map of geo-coded outdoor sites, to determine the respondents' "opportunity to see" an ad.
"We believe this test will offer a clear indication that an electronic, people-based audience measurement system for outdoor advertising is commercially viable, and that it has strong potential to become the global currency," said Michael P. Connors, chairman and CEO of VNU Media Measurement & Information. "The industry has long demanded such a service, which will enable outdoor to establish - with scientific and verifiable accuracy - its true value for reaching consumers."
"With this new service, media planners will be able to buy outdoor with the same confidence they have when they buy TV, radio and print. Outdoor media companies, on the other hand, will be able to offer advertisers quantifiable proof of the medium's value in reaching consumers," said Lorraine Hadfield, Nielsen's managing director. "The Nielsen Outdoor service will benefit players on both sides of the advertising transaction," She added
Nielsen Outdoor has formed a global Outdoor Advisory Council - made up of charter clients representing outdoor media companies, advertisers and agencies - to win industry consensus for a worldwide measurement currency. The Council includes such industry leaders as the outdoor companies Clear Channel, JCDecaux and Viacom; the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA); and the media-buying agencies MediaCom, Starcom MediaVest Group and Universal McCann. Nielsen Outdoor is also in discussions with several major advertisers to become charter clients and members of its Outdoor Advisory Council.
According to Hadfield, Nielsen Outdoor believes it can launch a commercial service as soon as next year. The United States will likely be the first target, with other countries to follow.