Driving OOH post-Covid: A case for a Unified Measurement System

OOH experts share insights on why a measurement system is of paramount importance in the current COVID market scenario

e4m by Noel Dsouza
Published: Sep 28, 2020 8:35 AM  | 9 min read
OOH Measurement System

The OOH sector is slowly beginning to recover as the Nation begins to unlock. Even though traffic mobility has started to go back to pre-COVID days in metropolitan cities, some brands are opting out of investing in the OOH medium due to the lack of measurement data. All major mediums have a unified measurement system in place. For TV there is BARC, Radio has RAM and newspapers have IRS. But the lack of a consolidated measurement system in the OOH space has been an age-old problem for the ecosystem.

A unified measurement system is a crucial factor to attract more clients towards billboards, especially in the current market scenario where brands want accountability for every ad rupee spent.

We spoke to OOH leaders to understand if brands are reluctant to advertise on OOH due to this impediment and the requisite solutions to curb the issue.

Lack of data and how OOH agencies are coping
Jayesh Yagnik, CEO, MOMS Outdoor Media Solutions says the challenge which OOH has always faced is the lack of a syndicated currency. “All agencies have their systems and we at Madison too provide the brands with impressions/OTS and post COVID mobility numbers. The brands in the initial phase of the lockdown were a bit restricted to considering OOH but now with mobility picking up and Unlock 4 in place, many brands are exploring OOH. Having said that, we expect the investments to be increased in the pre-festive and festive season,” remarked Yagnik.

Yagnik says, “Initially, data was a challenge. To give realistic data of mobility and impressions post-COVID we launched a tool, which is an updated version of Madison Traffic count and that has been received very well by the stakeholders. Measurement is always important but now it has gained more significance.”

DOOH player, Gulab Patil, Founder, CEO, Lemma Technologies says that individual data points scattered across the industry with no interconnected structure is where the challenge lies.  “It’s the fragmentation of data that’s currently the industry challenge. Each stakeholder owns a different data set in varying capacities that serve some purpose or the other but it can only benefit the client when all of these data points are analyzed collectively to create optimal media plans. As pDOOH players, our data management platform serves as a warehouse that not only stores different data sets but dynamically coverts analyze and maps them to the screens that will serve the clients purpose. However, this has to be scaled and implemented across the board for better media outcomes in OOH and to gain advertisers trust again,” he says.

Sai Nagesh, Chief Strategy Officer, Laqshya Media Group shares his perspective: “Till last year, data was indeed a big gap in the OOH arsenal, but that is not the case anymore. Post lockdown relaxations, Laqshya led the way in getting clients back to OOH with the ‘Zee 13thkitayyari’ campaign. We continue campaigns across all regions in the country. We have just released a report that has been acclaimed across the board on the return of traffic on roads across Metros in India. This has lots of data on time takes by traffic and the number of people on the roads across Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. It is an undeniable proof that OOH will give great impact and low cost per contact already. Laqshya’s OOH measurement system, SHARP, has a much larger database than any other media measurement platform and is at par with mobility.”

Arijit Chakrabarti, Head of Strategy, Kinetic India remarked: “COVID -19 has put increased pressure to deliver numbers on both sides of the table. In June, as India gradually moved towards the unlock, we launched a calibrated system to help our clients navigate COVID-19’s new-normal maze with granular real-time data-points. Under our initiative of  'India On The Move', we were able to provide clients with actual on-ground analytics on not just the reduction of at home presence of audiences post lockdown, but also understand audiences returning to specific touchpoints.”

A Times OOH spokesperson stated that today several assets back the media by enough and more data. "...like our airports and metros gather audited traffic reports that can quantify reach." They shared, “While we at Times OOH release audience profiling that showcases not only demographics but also psychographics of the audiences. We thereby offer satisfying the segmentation requirement of brands. Hence, we don’t see there is a lack of data today rather a lot of data available traffic in places like Delhi is now the same as it was in 1st week of March. While the brands have started coming on board, uncertainty on restrictions at the local level and weak economic situation are what is making clients sceptical to spend on advertising and this trend can be seen across all media.”

Upinder Singh, Project Director, Edge1 Outdoor Media Management Software tells us that brands have no time to waste, they need to measure and understand the changes that are happening in the pre-COVID market scenario as quickly as possible and with greater frequency. “In normal times, gaining the audience's attention and moving the needle on key consumer-behaviour metrics was a costly endeavour and often beyond the budgets and marketing capabilities of many small and mid-tier brands. The current environment offers an unprecedented opportunity for these smaller companies to compete against their more established rivals for exposure, mindshare, and market share with a new and broader base of potential customers,” commented Singh.

Challenges in a COVID market
Talking about the roadblocks, Nagesh says, “With the overall business environment challenged by low revenues over an extended period, spends are being looked at with a fine-tooth comb. Laqshya’s prowess with measurement metrics is helping us to convince clients that OOH makes a lot of sense as the markets open up. The advertisers are looking at investing in media that gives the highest impact at a value-for-money cost per impression – and OOH scores very high on both these parameters.”

Patil agrees that Campaign measurement in OOH has gained accelerated prominence as there is a shift from ‘guess’ to ‘evidence based reporting’ for every ad dollar spent.

Talks regarding a Unified Measurement System surfaced earlier this year in March where OOH leaders came together to form a Request for Proposal (RFP) for formulation and implementation a measurement system for the industry. A decision was to be taken in June but the global pandemic put this on halt.

Yagnik feels that OOH agencies can come together and develop the syndicated measurement system. “There were advancde talks on this matter just before the lockdown and IOAA were to invite RFP for the measurement system from various players who are masters in this domain. However, because of the sudden lockdown, the plan couldn’t move forward. Having said this, syndicated measurement is the need of the hour and will get OOH in line with other media”, says Yagnik.

Patil commented, “Standardization in OOH has been an ongoing conversation for a while now with some progress made in this direction as a result of digitization of screens. Now with programmatic digital out of home in place, this is gradually becoming a reality where a unified platform acts as a data hub across the audience, location, screens and aids in the ad serving and tracking as well. Although limited to DOOH screens, this is a positive move in the direction of a unified ecosystem, one with the digital ad world and not just the OOH industry.”

Nagesh says, “Efforts are on to convince all the large OOH agencies to invest in an industry instrument like BARC and INS. However, given the extremely fragmented community of OOH agencies and media owners, this is taking the time. Laqshya’s proprietary tool, SHARP, provides copious amounts of data for clients. It also addresses the most critical data required for a seasoned advertiser – the NET REACH of an OOH campaign. There are good new players in the market like Hyperlocal Metrics and their platform OOHAxis, a platform for a lot of good quality measurement metrics – smaller agencies and clients must consider them as well.”

Chakrabarti says, “We have always voiced the importance of an industry-wide Adex at multiple forums. Now is arguably the best time to collaborate; not just to understand brand investments across the length & breadth of India but also audience attribution by modelling and enforcing a uniform currency for measurement. We have seen this currency being established and accepted across multiple mediums, which has resulted in positive impact and enhancement of scale. We believe that a similar currency will work positively for the OOH medium as well.”
Singh commented, “In the absence of common currency, brands have to go with what the agency is giving you in terms of numbers. That is where the challenge is. When it comes to marketing in general, not enough marketers have established credible alternatives. One of the solutions is that we should be thinking about totally different alternatives to help marketers satisfy their marketing goals.”

Lack of data is not a challenge for OOH because there are other data points available like traffic report in a city for media on roads and passenger data of airports which brands can use. Times OOH concluded saying, “For transit properties, we have very rich data about the audience like traffic, demographic, Psychographic etc which clients use. While there are lot many talks about measurement and it's good to have one too so that brands can optimize their campaigns, but it’s just a matter of time when you will see OOH media in a full swing again.”


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