The out-of-home sector presents the toughest challenge in audience research.
Those exposed to the medium are constantly moving. The advertising can be anywhere and everywhere – at the side of a road, inside stations or even inside trains. Some displays, such as those on buses, continually change location.
Advertising displays vary from traditional “paper and paste” to high-definition digital screens. Some frames show static posters, some are dynamic; they can scroll or show video copy.
There is no guarantee that someone passing in proximity to an advertising frame will see it. Are they travelling toward the frame? Is the frame facing the right way? Is the view obstructed? If it is dark, is the frame illuminated?
Traditional research methods cannot provide the answer. For example, there is no readily recognisable editorial hook on which to base a study of recall. And the general public does not recognise the difference between a 48-sheet and a 96-sheet. Memory of past travel behaviour is often patchy, too. It is difficult to imagine a single study that could provide all the required information.
The answer is to combine a number of studies, each of which is tailored to answer specific challenges of measuring the audience for out-of-home advertising.
The largest ever GPS travel survey tells us how people move around as they live day-to-day. This also provides the source of detailed demographic information about the respondents, as well as their shopping and media habits.
A Traffic Intensity Model (TIM) determines absolute population numbers and their travel flow on every single pathway, whether pedestrian or vehicular. This provides the framework that maps the entire country, indoors and out.
Pioneering eye-tracking studies gauge the likelihood to see the various types of display. The research accounts for scale, orientation and distance. It also calibrates properties such as movement and illumination.
Outsmart uses its Inventory Mapping System (IMS) to collate detailed characteristics of its members’ frame inventory. Having worked out who goes where and what they might see, the final element is to introduce the advertising frames, the audience for which is to be measured. Updated information is forwarded to Route on a quarterly basis for inclusion in the next round of publication.
The many inputs form a series of data files. Audience measurement is the result of combining the files through the application of a sophisticated reach and frequency algorithm.
The output of the study is an estimate of the audience to out-of-home advertising campaigns. Route quantifies how many people see a campaign and how often they do so.
The audience can be broken down into many typologies including age, class, lifestyle, shopping habits and so on.
In 2008 the Route study was commissioned and Ipsos MediaCT selected as the company to undertake the work. The company deliver many similar projects, including the RAJAR and NRS currencies. For Route they undertake the project from start to finish, overseeing fieldwork and developing bespoke modelling.
Based in Prague, MGE Data are a specialist in geographic information systems and geomarketing technology and data. MGE Data provide MobiTest GPS meters for Route, and contribute to modelling parts of the Route study.
Birkbeck, University of London
Dr. Paul Barber, Emeritus Reader in Cognitive Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London, spearheaded the eye-tracking work that facilitates Route's visibility study. Route has an ongoing relationship with the Department of Psychological Sciences.