MRC Issues Finalized OOH Media Standard, This Phase Excludes Audiences

Following months of vetting and public comment, an out-of-home working group of the Media Rating Council today released the final version of "phase 1" of the U.S. marketplace's standard for measuring ad exposure to the medium.

Significantly, phase 1 deals only with "impressions," while a standard for measuring persons-based audience exposure will come when a "phase 2" is created at an as-yet-undisclosed future date.

Some see the new standard as a backward step for a medium that in recent years had moved to estimates developed by U.S. out-of-home industry JIC (joint industry committee) Geopath that have been based on whether people are actually likely to see out-of-home ad exposures.



"The standard is indicated to be phase 1, because at present it includes all forms of impression measurement, inclusive of [opportunity-to-see] and [likely-to-see] metrics/processes, but it does not yet contain requirements for 'audience,' measurement (measurement that includes age, gender or other audience characteristics attributed, with evidence of consumption of the media)," The MRC said in a statement provided to MediaPost. "This will be addressed in a second phase, which MRC will be kicking off very soon. This is not meant to say that audience measurement is not critical — it is.  It will be addressed by MRC in phase 2 as soon as possible."

The finalized version of phase 1 does not appear to have substantively changed from an earlier draft version, which was released months ago for public comment. You can read the final version here.

15 comments about "MRC Issues Finalized OOH Media Standard, This Phase Excludes Audiences".
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  1. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, April 26, 2024 at 1:24 p.m.

    Anyone who supports this chart would fail "Media Research Terms, Definitions & Derivations 101".  Several members of this purposely unidentifed MRC Working Group explicitly pointed out the flaws which were ignored by MRC staff.     

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., April 26, 2024 at 2:30 p.m.

    @Tony Jarvis: Do tell, what are the flaws?

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 26, 2024 at 3:47 p.m.

    Tony, this is just another example of the sellers getting what they want---this time for OOH  from the MRC. They all think that bigger numbers give them more ad dollars--hence OTS or "impressions" ---not actual ad exposures. This kind of thinking was behind the Geopath revolt of a few years ago that Joe wrote about recently. The TV ad sellers think the same way---and wrongly--- if advertisers realized how few actual ad contacts they are getting for their dollars they would probably spend more---not less--to rectify the shortfall.

  4. George Ivie from MRC replied, April 26, 2024 at 6:02 p.m.

    Consider an example: YouTube had $8.1 billion in ad sales for Q1 2024, a 21% increase year over year and Alphabet, YouTube's parent, had total revenue of $80.54 billion and net income of $23.66 billion for Q1, a 15% and 57% increase respectively.  We still have people arguing against seeking to align OOH measurement with other media types and prepare OOH for cross-media measurement, which was one of our key objectives.

  5. George Ivie from MRC replied, April 26, 2024 at 6:07 p.m.

    Phase 2 will cover audience measurement; the phase 1 standard is not intended to be anti-audience measurement or anti-Geopath.  MRC believes strongly in the merit of audience measurement.  

  6. John Grono from GAP Research, April 26, 2024 at 8:19 p.m.

    Those who think they can accurately measure impressions (and/or their 'quality' or 'effectiveness') are deluded.

    The more marketing requisites the more data points (not just digital data) are required and the permutations rapidly increase. In the vain attempt to increase permutations, the accuracy generally decreases.   And then the results are generally atypicaland very often misleading.

  7. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., April 26, 2024 at 8:37 p.m.

    George Ivie: Thank you for the visceral marketplace example, and for explaining how phase 1 is a building block toward a workable common denominator.

  8. George Ivie from MRC replied, April 26, 2024 at 9:42 p.m.

    Thank you Joe.  I will be the first to admit this standard is not perfect, in fact no standard we've produced has been perfect.  Flaws can be mined from certain of the details.  The OOH standard is vast majority good (my opinion).  This standard took 5 years to write, unfortunately, and compromises have been hard won.  As I previously commented the standard builds a bridge toward comparability.  I personally care about this and have a strong desire to finish the job getting to standards for OOH audience metrics in phase 2.

  9. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 27, 2024 at 7:36 a.m.

    In the chart depicting the MRC's "core" metrics, the only one that has any significance for advertisers, as well as offering some measure of comparability in value, is the last one----"liklihood to see". But here we need something tangible---and measurable---like attentiveness for TV as well as digital video and display and OOH media. Theoretical metrics based on time on-screen----such as "completion " ----are simply not acceptable. As for audio and print media, it is not even clear how attentiveness to ads can be measured---but as nobody seems to care about those media we are talking mainly about TV and or video in this discussion. So my question is if the MRC comes up with a "core" metric for "likliehood to see" will this be based on measurements that  determine whether people look at ad messages ---and the duration of that exposure---or is even  this  clear and basic definition yet to be determined for application sometime in the possibly distant future?

    Pardon me for being skeptical, but based on past experience, I have a suspicion that we will never get to the point where visual attentiveness to ads or program content is mandated as a "standard" part of the equation. And I also suspect that this will  be the case for "audience" which is very closely related to the issue of attentiveness. Of course, I'd love to be wrong on this and I am a strong supporter of the MRC, but I think that the rececnt experience of the "JIC"suggests that if the sellers don't like a MRC decision to include attentiveness as a standard, they may simply "certify" sources that do not employ it as being better suited  for "transactions". In that case, where does that leave us?

  10. Chris Cowlbeck from IBOUSA, April 27, 2024 at 9:59 a.m.

    I have a unique perspective in aggregating the supply of our independent members in a co-op fashion with our IBO Speedway (100K+ footprint), and as the MRC OOH Chairman currently, have seen the sausage being made for several years, and fully support the work the staff and committee have done to balance the wide variety of comments and opinions, all of which are valid and worthy, so the added time has been worth it albeit frustrating for all.  

    I very much align with George’s efforts and simple observation that in just one quarter, YouTube alone booked what our entire industry does in a year.  George didn’t mention that digital fraud amounts to $50 billion and is forecast to be $72 billion this year, many large multiples of the spend allocated to OOH no matter what value is considered.

    The industry suppliers (of which I am one) have built strong businesses over the years prior to digital displays and now with the technological advancements, we are all adjusting to the confusion these advancements bring and how it has impacted our past selling strategies and future revenue stream potentials.  The publicly traded companies have been quicker to embrace the changes and have their influential voice and company positions.  Common ground suggests we all wish for the OOH spend to increase, and to do so, we must all align as we can and provide the information to the buy side as they desire it - a goal of mine for many months with the independents.  There’s no better way to measure that desire unfold than to watch the brand purse strings grow.

    For me a goal can be to target the digital fraud buckets and to do so with the best, most believable data and traffic metrics services, to prove to the buy side that OOH is worthy of their budget.  This will involve deep educational efforts for our members to accentuate their selling processes and I expect the next phase of the standards will go more smoothly both in crafting and adoption.  We as an industry, whether on the buy or sell side, should embrace accountability and transparency and encourage any service that provides this information to seek accreditation.  I know the suppliers we are working with are committed in this direction and not only will our members and industry benefit as these processes mature, but so will the buyer comfort which we can then measure in an increase of industry spend over time.  Who doesn’t want to raise the tides and lift all boats?

    We are now in a transitional phase and we can all come together to make this process more meaningful and expedite the evolution of the next steps in Phase 2.

  11. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, April 27, 2024 at 12:39 p.m.

    Ed & Joe: One of the fundmental underlying flaws in this document is the "convenient" confusion driven by whether the media measurement is device/surface measure and therefore based on content rendered, or a measure of people and their potential exposure (at some level) to the medium.  The social media data pirates have managed to persuade the industry that for smart phones, desktops, and erroneously TV, a content rendered count is "good enuff" as a measure of OTS.  However as Ed and Route UK point out, not a real OTS and certainly not an attention or Eyes-On/Ears-On measure.    
    Of course this hypothetically assumed OTS condition based solely on contnent rendered does not work for TV, print, or radio and especially not for OOH - a one panel/board to very very many people which requires an empirical measure of persons and their "presence" at a minimum for an OTS, i.e., a measure of audience for the medium!  These differences between media are part of what makes cross-media measurement so tricky.   
    As the OOH research cognoscente are fully aware, the list and order of the elements on the chart are not only confusing but as pointed out by several members of the Working Group woefully incorrect also noting that "Audience" should not even be on the chart. 

  12. Barry Green from Barry Green & Associates, April 29, 2024 at 12:10 a.m.

    MRC is a massive scam that not hurts small publishers and helps large publishers who can pay their fees and manpower to work on their audit 
    MRC has not stopped ad fraud! Ad fraud is worse across all digital advertising since MRC came around 
    The people at MRC are over paid and what smaller publisher  will pay $150,000 plus power to get audited 
    in my 25 years of being in digital advertising NOT once has an agency, brand or ANYONE ELSE asked me if we were MRC audited.!! OOHAnd DOOH industry resist this shakedown for cash 

  13. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 29, 2024 at 6:30 a.m.

    Barry, MRC does not audit "publishers" or TV networks or cable channels or streaming ad sellers. It works with research companies that try to measure such things as "audience" and is definitely not a "scam".

  14. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., April 29, 2024 at 8:55 a.m.

    @Barry Green: A) The MRC doesn't audit publishers, per se, though it does occassionally audit proprietary measurement services of some very big publishers who want to seek accreditation for grading their own homework.

    Publishers still are audited by other independent trade groups such as the Alliance of Audited Media.

    B) The MRC is not overpaid.

    Based on nonprofit tax filings to the Internal Revenue Service, the MRC's gross receipts were about $2.6 million in 2022 (the last year data is available for).

    By comparision, the gross receipts of comparable nonprofit trade groups are:

    Alliance of Audited Media: $16.6 million

    Geopath: $14.4 million

    IAB: $35.8 million

    ANA: $61.0 million

    The costs associated with conducting audits are the fees paid to their party auditors. Those fees are not paid to the MRC.

    It's 100% up to measurement services whether they seek MRC accreditation, conduct audits, etc. It is not compulsory, and many measurement services operate successfully without MRC accreditation. In fact, most of the "currencies" certified by the U.S. JIC currently are not accredited.

    AAM ($16.6 Million)

    Gross Receipts: ANA ($61 million)

  15. John Grono from GAP Research, April 29, 2024 at 8:22 p.m.

    Thank you Joe, Ed & Tony clarifying the variety of misperceptions.

    Tony, regarding OOH, OTS is a valuable bedrock to produce an 'eyes-on' count, but standalone it is very poor for audience data.

    A simple example.   You post a static billboard on a busy motorway that has 100k vehicles per day.   Your billboard is up for one week.   That does not mean 7 x 100,000 = 700,000 people which is what some think is correct, as human behaviour is to use your preferred travel pattern to and from work.   This is just a simple example as their away around a dozen other factors that are needed to get decent data.

    A simple way to remember the difference between OTS and LTS.   OTS can also stand for Outdoor Trading Scam.   Conversely LTS DOES stand for Likelihood To See,   I know which I would buy from.

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