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No matter what market you advertise in, the main goal in advertising is to get people to see and talk about your ad. So it follows that the more people who see your ad, the better. But how do you measure how many people have seen a billboard?

That question dogged the industry for decades in the days before automation. But within the past 15 years, great strides have been made in out of home (OOH) measurement, giving advertisers a better idea of how many see their ads.

Measuring OOH is critical to advertising success. It gives you the right tools to make decisions for the future and can explain why a campaign succeeds or fails.

There are two main ways to quantify OOH exposures. One is through geofencing, and the other is through impressions. Both can be used, along with conversions, to determine the campaign’s success.


Measuring OOH Through Geofencing

What is geofencing? It involves using radio frequency identification, cell data, GPS or Wi-Fi to send out a notification to a mobile device when it gets within a certain geographic area, also referred to as the geofence. Here’s how it works: Say you are walking past McDonald’s, and your phone pings with a text offering a two-for-one deal on Big Macs; that’s geofencing.

Geofencing can also include actions taken when someone reacts to something on your billboard, such as a QR code or URL set up just for the board. Companies often use this method when they don’t have a brick-and-mortar site and need to trigger online action, such as buying from a website. Geofencing can include actions taken as a direct result of billboard advertising, which shows its worth.

Measuring OOH Through Impressions

Impressions measure how many people actually saw your billboard. This is a tricky area that’s more art than science, though strides have been made over the years to narrow down what counts as a billboard impression. It basically includes people who drive or walk past a billboard and relies on things such as traffic counts to determine the numbers.

There’s a long and messy history of how impression-based measurement came to be calculated, going back to the 1930s, when the Traffic Audit Bureau for Media Measurement Inc. was first established. Figuring out the best measurement method caused a lot of controversy within the industry, with agencies questioning methodology and the industry bristling at that. Eventually, compromises were reached to get today’s system.

Who Measures OOH?

The industry standard for impression measurement is Geopath, which standardized the method for making apples-to-apples comparisons for billboards. It makes it easier to compare OOH’s effectiveness to other media, too (and it compares favorably). DASH TWO is a member of Geopath, as are virtually all agencies and vendors, and so we get to see their data and plan media buys based on that information.

Geopath creates a metric you can use to compare measurements across markets. “The measurement now is a lot more detailed,” notes Julie Radlovic, vice president of national sales for the West Coast at OUTFRONT. “In the past, we used a different measuring source, which didn’t take as much into consideration as it does now. So basically, they’ll now audit a sign for a week, and they’ll determine how many impressions that sign would get based on auto traffic, pedestrian traffic, if it’s on the right side of the road, if it’s on the left side of the road, you name it, and then they’ll come up with sort of an impression based-number that’s kind of like our Bible, similar to how TV would use Nielsen.”

Radlovic notes that while Geopath is widely used, other methods can contribute to measurement data for advertisers. “That’s kind of the industry standard, what everyone uses, but then there are additional capabilities out of home can utilize to target a little bit better. Different vendors have different platforms,” she says. This is where geofencing can come in. A couple examples:

  • OUTFRONT’s smartSCOUT uses mobile phone technology to track where people who pass billboards go in the next week. They can use the data to segment out very specific demographics, such as women 25-35 who go to the gym and the movies.
  • Clear Channel uses a similar tool, RADAR, that also relies on anonymous mobile location data to drill down into audience habits and find the best billboard locations.

Measuring OOH Through Conversions

Of course, all the people in the world could see your billboard, and it won’t matter if those people aren’t taking action. What advertisers want is for people to act on their ads, so conversions are a third way to measure OOH effectiveness. You can measure through conversions in several ways. It could be:

  • How many people used a texted coupon or special offer to make an in-store purchase.
  • How many people visited a dedicated URL or used a QR code associated with the campaign.
  • How many people shared the campaign on social media.
  • How many people download an app advertised on the billboard.

What Questions Should Advertisers Ask About Measurement?

Agencies should always be transparent with advertisers about how many people view the ads. If an agency says it can’t get that information, it’s a red flag. Advertisers should always have access to some type of measurement for a campaign, which can tell you what’s working and what you may need to tweak.

Make sure you are on the same page as the agency about what information will be shared. A few questions you might discuss include:

  • How will the campaign be measured?
  • What will the benchmark for success be in terms of impressions or conversions?
  • What is the key conversion for this campaign?
  • Is social media sharing a critical metric?

Mountains of data aren’t necessary to measure an OOH campaign. In this case, quality matters over quantity, and a good campaign will deliver quality measurement results.

Still have questions about how to measure an out of home campaign? Contact DASH TWO to get answers. We can plan a campaign for you with solid numbers behind it.

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