Outdoor System Puts Advertisers In The Driver's Seat -- Literally

A new digital 3-D modeling program called Outdoor DRiVE Pro promises to put ad execs and media planners in the driver's seat to preview outdoor ad campaigns in typical urban, rural, and highway environments. Together with Nielsen Outdoor's announcement in December, 2005 of the first results from its new GPS-based Npod measurement system, the 3-D modeling program represents a new wave of modeling and measurement for outdoor advertising.

For its part, the proprietary simulation program, developed by software firm Alpha MediaWorks, will allow media professionals to vet campaigns for clarity of signage at various distances, as well as frequency and overall impact. If paired with Nielsen Outdoor's precise measurement system--which traces the movements of actual subjects over highways and cityscapes using satellite GPS--such 3-D modeling could some day allow a "point and click" interface to show any billboard, anywhere in the country, as well as the estimated number of people who have viewed it, when, and under what conditions.



This combined function is probably some distance in the future--but David Sill, the lead software designer, said an interested client could commission simulations of specific campaigns if they wished.

Alpha MediaWorks' program--which expands the functions of the original Outdoor DRiVE simulator introduced in 2005--allows users to drop up to six different ads in standard digital formats to simulate a campaign using outdoor spaces, including billboards and bus kiosks. Formats include 8 sheets, 30 sheets, bulletins, and shelters, all viewable in day and night settings. The interface, reminiscent of urban shoot-'em-up video game "Grand Theft Auto" (without the gore, of course), may also be useful for selling clients or senior execs on campaigns.

Alpha MediaWorks upgraded the original Outdoor Drive at the request of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), tailoring the program to wish lists from OAAA members. According to Sill, one major concern was that simulation files would be small enough for users to e-mail them to clients or transport them easily on disks--no small challenge, as anyone who has worked with 3-D digital modeling software knows.

Other added features Sill has forecast for the more immediate future include bus and taxi-top advertising, as well as a "park and walk" function in which users can stroll around the virtual cityscape, simulating interaction with advertising in elevators and other public spaces.

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