Opinion: Eyes On the Prize

As other “traditional” advertising media continue to lose audience—with television viewers TiVoing through commercial breaks, print readers moving online or to mobile media, etc.—there’s one advertising medium that is holding strong. Out-of-home advertising continues to remain a constant and will stay that way as long as people need to go from one place to another. The decline in other media makes it an even more opportune time than any for the OOH industry to be completely re-engineering its measurement standards. And the industry is doing just that with the impending introduction of Eyes On Impressions.

Previously noted by media guru Erwin Ephron as “the biggest advance in media accountability since Nielsen introduced the people meter 20 years ago,” the advent of Eyes On Impressions (EOI) has had the advertising industry abuzz for several years now. EOI is the new media metric about to be introduced as the currency that will make OOH metrics more compatible and comparable with alternative media and thus more relevant for OOH buyers and sellers. It’s been the main topic of two consecutive major industry conferences and it will be arriving at an OOH media negotiation near you very shortly.

Perhaps it’s best to include a reminder of why this initiative was undertaken in the first place. Buyers and sellers responsible for reconciling OOH advertising metrics with those of other media know that the task has been highly challenging to date. In order to overcome this barrier, a robust, credible audience measurement system is needed. The system will provide comparable data to that generated by other media and, in turn, will assist planners by taking the guess-work out of providing information in media terms of moving dollars from other media into OOH.

Unfortunately, talk of EOI has been circulating for a few years, inadvertently causing many in the industry to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. It may be worthwhile to preempt a few possible misconceptions that are bound to occur as to the industry receives its first look at the EOI figures.

Clarifying Areas of Confusion

The EOI figures will be presented as weekly impressions, distinct from the current Daily Effective Circulation (DEC). The first thing that some may elect to do would be to divide EOI by seven to get a ‘daily EOI.’ They may then compare the result to the existing DECs, in which case the resulting number may be less than the current DEC.

This should not cause concern. Comparing the EOI figures and DEC figures is much like comparing apples and oranges. DEC is a measure of vehicular traffic merely passing by a structure, which provides an “opportunity to see.” EOI measures both vehicular and pedestrian traffic that actually notice the advertising on a structure, thus providing the real commercial audience.

As presented at the TAB conference in May 2008, media planners and buyers typically discount DECs by a factor of up to 70 percent, as the numbers provided from DECs aren’t perceived to be a true reflection of audience.

This underlines the need for a new system and explains why, as previously mentioned, the results for EOI figures will seem lower. In fact, when the EOI are augmented by the pedestrian count, which has up till now been ignored, and is compared to a discounted planning-base DEC, the number may actually increase. While EOI and DEC still aren’t comparable, this fact may give some comfort.

What about cost-per-thousands? Although it doesn’t enter into all OOH negotiations, CPM is still a major factor in the process of selecting media and suppliers. CPM figures will change, and in some instances increase, but only as a result of the overall audience viewing the outdoor ads being more accurately measured. Currently, adults 18-plus are taken into account for measuring CPMs. EOI will be able to measure more discrete demographic sub-groups—up to 300 of them. This again is new fodder for the whole OOH industry, which has not traditionally dealt with the costing of discrete demographic groups, and will further enhance our comparability with other media.

As a result, some CPMs may seem comparatively higher than what the industry is traditionally accustomed to. This is because each sub-group, by definition, comprises fewer individuals than the18-plus universe and will yield fewer impressions as a result, thus producing a higher CPM. This is true across all media. The smaller the group, the more difficult it is to target and therefore the more expensive, per thousand, to buy.

Previously, the price of sub-demographics wasn’t a topic of conversation for OOH advertising. While conversion factors have previously been applied in order to supply estimates, we are soon to be in the position of generating accurate sub-group ratings.

The topics discussed here are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways that EOI will change the media buying and OOH industries. The TAB will shortly be providing the industry with a full range of educational tools and workshops.

So let’s prepare to embrace our new currency. The EOI metrics will prove invaluable to the OOH industry by finally generating real numbers reflecting the true nature of our medium in terms of size and composition. But let’s not compare apples to oranges.    

Nigel Emery is marketing and research manager for outdoor vendor Cemusa Inc. He can be reached at Nemery@cemusainc.com.