OOH planning on the other side of the pandemic

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OOH had a miserable COVID so it’s no surprise to see contractors harden their rate stance as they look to claw back lost revenues as the market recovers. In a number of cases though, we have had to walk away as rates have not reflected current audience usage levels which, as a media planner has been frustrating. 

The lack of accurate and up-to-date audience measurement data has also posed challenges when creating an OOH solution for our clients.  

The measurement issue 

Route’s audience measurement for OOH was launched ten years ago as a world-class piece of data. In 2020 they released a new and more accurate system using spot-level measurement, reporting on 15- minute increments – this sounded revolutionary for the industry. Unfortunately for them, this data was released the same month the UK went into lockdown and it became useless. 

The last full version of Route dates back to 2019 – this is now over two years out of date. As a planner it’s becoming more and more difficult to recommend using environments where we know mobility is down, consumer habits have shifted, and the data is inaccurate. 

The uncertain future 

Route are reportedly releasing a new survey in the summer which will be better informed on current levels of rail and underground usage, plus more detail on roadside levels. But planners desperately need up-to-date reach and frequency measurement to be able to craft effective OOH plans. 

Now planners are turning to mobile data, using Apple & Google to understand consumer movements in real-time. Route’s 6-month lag cannot compete. What is needed is a source of robust data which is current and regular – a universal measurement, with an Out of Home industry body to drive this forward.    

The added complication is that media owners sell their inventory using different models. Some still use Route as the fundamental and charge their digital sites based on a CPT model, but this doesn’t consider the size of site, the quality, or the stature it provides, therefore large format vendors won’t adapt to this model. 

We have four key media owners with four different agendas, a single measurement or buying model doesn’t look likely anytime soon… and with nobody holding them accountable there’s no appetite to work together.    

Despite this, clients are still hungry for OOH and we’re running brilliant campaigns for Workspace, Xero, Material Focus and GWI. But it feels as though there’s a crossroads up ahead and somebody needs to take charge. 

Written by Harriet Gorman, d19, Account Director