WPP's Spafax Teams With Nielsen To Develop Digital OOH Index, Calls It A Vital Next Step Toward 'Exchange' Model

WPP Group, the largest buyer of media in the world, once again is using its massive leverage to help organize a media marketplace that has been mired by some critical issues. Spafax Networks, the digital out-of-home media-buying division of WPP’s tenthavenue operations, is partnering with Nielsen to develop a new index for measuring, planning, buying and posting the value of digital out-of-home network media buys. The new index, which will be built on top of Nielsen’s existing On-Location service, will incorporate sophisticated consumer segmentation data from GfK MRI, as well as lifestyle and media consumption data from the Media Behavior Institute, which is partly owned by Nielsen and GfK MRI.

The new index, which will enable advertisers and agencies to identify a digital out-of-home media buy “down to the sub-block level, based on longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates,” says Spafax Executive Vice President Patrick Bonomo, is a crucial next step for the industry, as well as Spafax’s development of an “exchange”-based approach to digital out-of-home media that will replicate what has been evolving in the online display advertising marketplace.

Last spring, Spafax unveiled what is believed to be the industry’s first “DSP,” or demand-side platform, for buying digital out-of-home media, and Bonomo said the new audience measurement index being developed with Nielsen is another important part of its exchange model, which will ultimately enable advertisers and agencies to plan, buy and measure the delivery of digital out-of-home media the way the online industry’s so-called RTB, or real-time bidding marketplace works, replete with “agency trading desks.”

In essence, Bonomo said Spafax believes digital out-of-home will become another in an array of screens, including online, mobile and TV, that agency trading desks will buy and sell in real-time the way they currently are for online display. But he said the advantage of digital out-of-home will be its ability to pinpoint a consumer’s lifestyles and behaviors at a specific location.

“Everything we are focused on is API-driven,” Bonomo explained, referring to the acronym for an applications programming interface that enables third-party developers to access data or write computer programming code to interact with or enable applications tied to another platform’s computers. Because digital out-of-home networks utilize essentially the same infrastructure as online media -- a computer serving content and/or advertising to a screen -- Bonomo said he believes such APIs will enable Spafax and other agencies to access data directly from digital out-of-home network screens down to the “longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates.”

Bonomo said this has implications beyond media-buying, and will ultimately impact creative and messaging, because specific ads can be targeted to specific consumers exposed to digital out-of-home media in those locations.

Ultimately, Bonomo said the digital out-of-home network data will be augmented with additional data from mobile handheld devices being used to interact with the content and/or ads in those locations via social media and other applications.

Bonomo said the new audience measurement index will be in place early next year, and that Spafax’s and Nielsen’s goal is to broaden the base of networks and agencies utilizing the On-Location service, to make it a genuine currency for buying digital out-of-home media.

He said the development of an accountable and standardized measure for digital out-of-home audience segments and impressions will have profound impact on the way Madison Avenue values the medium.

“All media gets bought whether it is measured of not,” Bonomo said, adding that he believes digital out-of-home media is currently “discounted 70% to 80% by media planners, because they don’t know whether it is measured or not.”

Bonomo said he has already begun talking with other agencies and with the Digital Place-based Advertising Association (DPAA) about supporting the new audience index.

The moves are the latest progression by Spafax to develop its exchange-based model digital out-of-home media. Bonomo declined to comment on a MediaDailyNews report that Spafax already is working with Vistar, a programmatic trading platform for buying digital out-of-home media, but said an announcement would be coming shortly.

At least one other major out-of-home media shop, Aegis Group’s Posterscope, is also believed to be close to a deal to trade digital out-of-home media via Vistar.

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