Better Audience Data Through Technology

As online publishers use new technology to provide more, better and faster audience metrics, the pressure has begun to build on traditional, offline media to do the same. While the combination of falling ratings and circulation is putting the greatest pressure on broadcast and print, other offline media are quickly adopting technology to prove that we keep our audience delivery promises to advertisers.

For example, Arbitron just released a preliminary version of its outdoor measurement system covering nearly 7,200 pieces of outdoor inventory in the Atlanta market. The test, which used a hybrid of personal diaries and global positioning satellite (GPS) technology, measures the exposure of individual respondents to a variety of out-of-home media, including posters, bulletins, and even street furniture.

Last year, VNU's Nielsen Outdoor said it would test a metered audience measurement system for outdoor advertising using GPS to track motorist and pedestrian exposure to outdoor advertising. Members of a randomly chosen, demographically balanced sample will carry small, battery-operated meters that will automatically track their movements at 20-second intervals, making the system almost completely passive. This information will then be matched to a map of geo-coded outdoor sites, to determine the respondents' "opportunity to see" an ad.



Asphalt Media which puts mobile media ads on fleets of trailers that each day travel dedicated routes in every major DMA in the nation creating millions of impressions among the nation's 125 million auto commuters and millions of shoppers, is using GPS technology to track its trucks on moment by moment basis to help support Asphalt's Post Performance Report, a range of studies to prove that mobile media keeps its impression guarantee. Advertisers will be able to use web access to see exactly where their ads are at any moment and understand the demographics of the communities surrounding the trailer.

Start-up IQStat collects information about radio listening and uses GPS technology to track when the car drives past outdoor advertising. Data collected include: whether the radio is on or off; if someone is listening to a tape or CD; radio volume level; where the vehicle is located; the station to which the radio is tuned; the demographics of the listener; and whether the vehicle is running or not.

By continuing to rely on audiences projected from questionnaires, or diaries or small-sample-based metered homes, broadcast is giving media companies which are faster to adapt new audience measurement technology a huge opening to take advantage of continuing audience fragmentation and broadcast's own falling viewer numbers.

When media using the newest technology can deliver nearly real time audience data, who will want to wait 18 months for a magazine publisher's ABC statement to be confirmed as accurate? Or believe sweeps number represent anything other than desperate network attempts to hide the fact that viewers are leaving the networks in droves for cable or other media?

Outdoor is also pressing the technology initiative on the creative side. For example Asphalt is exploring technology that will allow advertisers to automatically alter the ad text as the trucks moves up the highway (such as telling surrounding drivers the next exit to a fast food joint or to tie into a current event like quickly promoting the videos of an actors who's won an Oscar.)

A promise made to advertisers ought to be a promise kept. That includes not only execution but also audience guarantees.

Michael Donovan is founding partner of Donovan and Green, a 25 year-old branding and marketing communications company specializing in developing and executing brand strategy, as well as creating experiences around brands.

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