Dr. Joe Philport, president of the TAB, is also clearly puzzled, but has offered no indication of when the TAB Board would eliminate access to them. (To be clear, DECs would remain a fundamental part of the Eyes-On integrated measurement methodology.)
This is despite an enlightened -- and not inexpensive -- initiative by CBS, Clear Channel Outdoor and Lamar to provide the general media planning agencies that sign up as TAB associate members with free access to a generic Eyes-On OOH planning system developed by Nielsen IMS. It provides aggregate or average OOH planning metrics that include impressions, ratings, reach and frequency with average costs based on market-by-market demos, format-by-format and vendor-by-vendor, all based on Eyes-On.
These three companies represent the most influential members of the TAB Board and clearly hope to advance the industry to this superior form of measurement. So surely access to DECs will be withdrawn soon?
There are hopeful signs.
Joanne Van der Burgt, executive vice president, NA sales Nielsen IMS /Monitor Plus, indicated that usage of this innovative OOH planning system has been growing steadily: "To date, we have over 60 agencies across 90+ offices and 475 users utilizing the system with many more scheduled over the weeks to come."
She added that "as a result of the OOH Planner System and data, planners are now looking across TV, radio and other channels to really look at outdoor through the same lens that historically they've not been able to analyze." This enhanced comparability with other media, along with Telmar's similar general Eyes-On OOH planning system and granular panel-by-panel Eyes-On analytics system, should bring pressure on the buying specialists to execute consistently using the new currency rather than DECs.
Tommy Teepell, chief marketing officer, Lamar, said: "Eyes-On allows us to speak the same, if not better, language as local broadcast. The IMS OOH Planning System, which feeds into their media mix system, has been a major step in supporting the case for OOH's inclusion in many plans for which it was not considered previously."
Looking to the future, Eyes-On also provides the foundation for even more precise measurement. According to Dr. Philport, close to 90% of all OOH vendor member audited plants have met or exceeded TAB's new geo-coding auditing standards. As a result, they can now be "accurately" mapped based on a harmonized and standardized industry approach.
It happens that this "asset" is also critical to determining the best estimate of a panel's distance from the road, which is a fundamental input in deriving a panel's 'visibility adjustment index' or VAI. VAI essentially adjusts measures of impressions (opportunities-to-see) to Eyes-On Impressions (EOIs or likelihood-to-see) based on a series of established physical criteria for each audited panel -- distance-to-the-road being one of the most important.
Other important VAI adjustment factors, according to the latest ESOMAR hlobal guidelines on Out-of-Home Audience Measurement -- GGOOHAM V1.0 include speed, are illumination and height. It is understood that these elements are regrettably not included in Eyes-On at this time.
Many senior professionals on the OOH front lines on both the plan/buy and sell sides are concerned and frustrated with the length of time it is taking to increase the overall comprehensiveness of Eyes-On notably formats beyond roadside, load all the relevant buy-sell systems with the data and generate the understandings and proficiencies required with this very different currency.
It is also clear that there are major differences in Eyes-On expertise and metrics usage around an industry that needs to more completely embrace and expand the data in order to grow ad share. Expert sources agreed that progress has been slow and uneven, and that Eyes-On has and will continue to require outstanding coaching, as well as serious expectations management, to make it a full part of the day-to-day OOH roadside marketplace.
However, the move to a new OOH currency, Eyes-On -- from "Daily Effective Circulation" or DECs -- is a great step forward for the industry and an opportunity for advertisers and their agencies to meaningfully compare OOH to the performance metrics of all other major media.
As Norm Chait, senior vice president, director of OOH investment and activation at MediaVest and TAB board member, opined: "Ultimately, Eyes-On is a game changer for the industry. Location and distribution will always be a part of what we do/buy, but to have the data to support why we buy what we do is critical to our future success."
In terms of advances in OOH metrics, TAB is not only working on basic updates to this unique integrated research approach, including the most recent government trip path data -- to and from work, etc. -- but is also hoping to add transit by 2013 with other formats to follow.
Transit will require its own unique VAI research to ensure it is harmonized with the existing Eyes-On ratings, which is another challenge. This potential addition may coincide with the release of a full update of the basic field survey elements of Eyes-On if it can be completed during 2012.
Some industry leaders suggest that this update is more important than adding additional formats -- transit, malls, airports -- as the original research is now more than 3 years old. However, they recognize that the harmonization and comparability of metrics across all major OOH formats -- notably digital -- is highly desirable and will help drive acceptance and usage. The industry needs to re-address the investments required.
But the fact remains: The industry also (and first) needs to fully embrace Eyes-On in its current form. As we know, media currencies are all less than perfect (I must reiterate: "There are no 'bloody' gold standards!").
But despite some shortcomings, Eyes-On represents for advertisers, agencies and media vendors a unique opportunity to understand and demonstrate the relative performance power and efficiency of OOH compared to other media.
If your agency or OOH media vendors are still using DECs for TAB-audited panels, perhaps it is time to ask why they have their eyes wide shut.