Arbitron Repositions Outdoor, Will Go With 100% Global Positioning Satellite Tech

In a surprising, but much welcomed move, media researcher Arbitron says it now plans to convert its fledgling outdoor media measurement service to a pure GPS (global positioning satellite) technology. Initially, Arbitron had planned to measure exposure to outdoor advertising via diaries and later added a small number of GPS-equipped panelists to a field test of the system in Atlanta.

Following the results of that test, Arbitron issued an advisory saying it now plans to "increase the GPS component substantially when we launch" the outdoor ratings service.

"We expect the GPS sample size to be several hundred for a market like Atlanta," though it said specific sample sizes would need to be determined for various markets. In the advisory and in a meeting with the Advertising Research Foundation's outdoor measurement committee in New York this week, Arbitron also said it ultimately planned to phase out diaries, or what it calls "written travel logs."

That announcement was well received on Madison Avenue, which had been leaning its support more in favor of a competing outdoor measurement system being developed by Nielsen Media Research International that relied solely on GPS technology.



"It was a little ironic that Nielsen was going forward with a system based on passive, portable measurement for outdoor, while Arbitron, which has been championing portable people meters for radio and TV measurement, was pushing diaries. It was bizarre," said Tony Jarvis, senior vice president-director of consumer insights at MediaCom, asserting that "passive, electronic measurement is the way to go."

Jarvis applauded Arbitron's decision and said it would help create competition for outdoor audience measurement that would benefit the entire industry. MediaCom was an early supporter of Nielsen's system, which is based on highly regarded GPS technology developed by the R.D. Percy Co. Jarvis said it remained to be seen how Arbitron's GPS technology compares with that.

Citing what happened in the U.K. when its outdoor media industry embraced passive, electronic measurement, Jarvis said it is conceivable that the enhanced credibility of outdoor audience ratings and the ability to develop reach and frequency planning scenarios ultimately could expand outdoor's U.S. advertising market share to as much as "10 percent by 2010."

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