There is little doubt that the return on investment with out-of-home industry research can be immense. “If you’re not scoring, you’re only practising” is the analogy used by Jan Leschly, one-time tennis star and former Chief Executive of GlaxoSmithKline, on the importance of accountability. Who could argue with that in today’s climate? All media are facing enormous challenges – the slow recovery from global recession, the absolute explosion of media, the migration to online, the new phenomenon of social media platforms. Naturally, all media face the challenge of demonstrating value in this increasingly complex and fragmented market. But in the final analysis, it’s about the audience that each can deliver – its size, its quality, its uniqueness, its engagement.
Research is the entry ticket. Over recent years, progress has been made in the out-of-home market worldwide, but there is work still to be done. Most Western European markets have established OOH industry research, some more sophisticated than others. The US has now got it and must use it effectively to capitalise on the latent OOH potential in such an enormous media market. That still leaves almost all of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the whole of APAC (barring Australia), and the LatAm markets without industry research.
There is no absolute evidence that research is the key to growing OOH spend and share of total ad spend, for there are always other factors: Has a new research system been launched into a growing or recessionary climate? What are other media channels doing or launching at the same time? How are consumers’ social habits changing? There is enough empirical opinion that research has been vital in getting OOH on to media plans and moving it up the food chain. The move to audience trading in media will only serve to further emphasise this value. If this is not enough, the growth of cross-media planning tools – such as Touchpoints in the UK, its equivalents in eight other European markets and a US launch imminent – will preclude OOH from cross-media weight and total achievement analyses if no robust and accepted audience measurement exists.
India lagging behind
In India, OOH research is way behind in those terms and we should immediately gear up to meet up with changes happening globally. In a climate of increased global marketing decisions, the failure to tick this box could be even more decisive if a multi-market campaign plan is being signed off in London or Munich. If OOH is to truly prosper as a ‘must have’ channel for multi-market brands worldwide or even at local levels, we have to reach a stage of common currency and reach a basic level of research before we get into things like measuring digital effect and value its cover and impact frequency to a mobile target audience, optimum copy treatments and rotations and the likes.
There is empirical opinion that research has been vital in getting OOH on to media plans and up the food chain. Posterscope’s view on this is very clear. Collaboration between media owners, buyers and advertisers in cross-industry forums that jointly agree on the design and implementation of OOH research achieves the most effective, widely accepted and valuable outputs. For markets new to OOH research, this should be a given. For markets moving to their second-phase development, or for digital, we would strongly advocate this process.
Good research never comes cheap. But investment on demonstrating to clients what OOH can achieve for their brands in a climate of ever more mobile consumers will repay itself in cementing out-of-home’s place on media schedules. This is something we believe in passionately as the way forward, we at Posterscope India have done that at individual levels by now upgrading our second generation set of Prism tools to help our clients measure and use OOH in a much optimised manner.
(Haresh Nayak is Managing Director, Posterscope Group India.)