Previous slide
Next slide
Previous slide
Next slide

Counting What Matters

Trish Guilford

General Manager

Trish Guilford

Trish Guilford

24 April . 7 min read . Opinion

(Credit: iStock-1180543403)

In an industry that is always looking for reliable research to justify advertising spend in media environments, it is of the utmost importance that the Out of Home Measurement Council (OMC) ensures just that for the Out of Home (OOH) segment.

We have, for years gone by, had the opportunity of getting very top line research for OOH.  If you’ve been in the industry for as long as I have, you will remember these days well! Questions like “Have you seen a billboard/taxi/bus shelter/litter bin in the past 7 days (P7D), Past 4 weeks (P4W), ever or never”. What was that? Of course, everybody has seen one of these types in those periods, unless you were driving on a road at night that had no illumination at all.

Telling your client that you would reach 95% of their target marketing using OOH becomes rather a joke in hind sight. In fact, in most instances, no matter which target market definitions you were looking at, you were guaranteed of getting a really high result. Unfortunately for media agencies there was no other alternative, and hence the OMC was formed to be able to give the industry robust, meaningful audience data for OOH.

Everybody knows the journey of the OMC and how we really have come leaps and bounds over the last 8 years. Who would ever have thought that our research would be considered one of the most sophisticated in South Africa? Our latest research, ROAD 2.0, which covers roadside inventory, is the first of its kind in South Africa – offering true attention based audience data. Yes, that is right. No more possible reach but rather giving the industry probable reach. This is a huge accolade for us and one that is taking a little bit of time for the industry to adjust to. Of course, our members have had to adjust to this measurement first and foremost in order to understand why their audience figures have changed quite radically from our first version of ROAD to our latest version.

Let me explain what our new currency, VACs, really means in the most simplest of illustrations.

The media industry has been quoting Opportunities to See/Hear (OTS/H) for many years with the understanding that anybody who reads a publication, watches any TV, listens to any radio or drives on any road would potentially see an ad.

Over the years, as research has become more refined and the need to know more about the exact target market being reached, has become all the more important, Realistic Opportunities to See/Hear (ROTS) have been implemented by some of the media types. We have just moved to the next phase, Visibility Adjusted Contacts (VACs) which is the ultimate in reach – the probable reach of the audience.  In our ROAD 2.0 currency, this means that we can now advise advertisers how many of their target audience will probably see their advertising not just have an opportunity to see it.

This more granular measurement which takes into account vehicle speeds, dwell times and other layers of sophisticated sets of research along with our detailed local Travel Survey, is then overlayed with our members inventory to produce audience figures passing through cones of visibility which each OOH frame creates. These cones are based on the location, size and orientation of the frame.

All of these layers and the resultant VACs per frame, is all very well and good for static frames, the industry understands this. The interesting scenario however is with the move and the adoption of advertising on digital frames where our new currency is even more important. As mentioned, dwell time in front of frames and speed are of paramount importance as well as the need to understand that the duration of the commercial as well as the length of the loop plays and integral part in working out probable audience reach. When there is a loop of twelve commercials in an advertising loop, working out the probably audience is extremely scientific. 

Until 2019, working out digital audiences was a case of taking the total audience or the traffic count and dividing this by the number of ads in the loop. Three years ago we adopted the World Out of Home Organisation (WOO) recommended algorithm but in South Africa, this was a manual calculation with took the audience of the frame and speed of the road and worked out the total audience of the DOOH. Today, our Inventory Delivery System (IDS) Software works this out for us and gives us the resultant VACs for the frame based on a 5 second ad in a 60 second loop. We are then able to work out different durations within the software to get probable audience reach for various durations in different loop lengths.

So, whilst this all seems a little too technical for most, for us it is an absolute breakthrough in the media industry! The world of research is moving to getting better handles on audiences to be able to report more realistic results for our clients and advertisers. Locally, OOH offers this attention-based measurement across all our member’s inventory.

However, let us take this one more step further in terms of industry requirements, the need for probable audience data to do programmatic trading! pDOOH is a hot topic right now. Our new methodology with new layers of information has resulted in some major changes to the audience figures that we have had before. It does not mean that there are fewer people on our roads or driving past the inventory, it means that more inventory needs to be selected and scheduled to achieve the same results as previous, or it means that the advertiser is going to be paying a higher CPM. We have to ask the question though, would you not rather pay that higher cost to know that you are definitely reaching the right audience? Would you not rather pay a higher cost for a premium media buy than adopt a standard buy approach? I suppose it could be compared to buying a pair of shoes. We all know that a pair of genuine leather shoes will last much longer than a pair of cheap plastic shoes. One pays for what one gets.

I do find it interesting too that advertisers have become quite used to paying high CPPs on TV because we all know that “people watch programmes and not channels”. We also know that some paid for channels do not have big enough samples and therefore often audience ratings are a point of a something example achieving 0.4 audience ratings on a DSTV channel. But yet there is still advertising on those channels and yes, I know, in most instances those ads are because packaged airtime has been booked for the client, or the discount negotiations have included added value on a handful of TV channels that are not in the media strategy. 

On the other hand, online buys now are often based on buying audiences and in their case its buying ROTS. A digital impression is not exactly the same as our VACs or attention based audience rating, but rather a digital impression is a realistic opportunity to see and many times there is a very low response to the ads served because there is a certain amount of wastage in online campaigns.

Which brings me to the next two cards in the OOH chest, and that is;

  1. Ensuring that the media owners and the media agencies all understand the process of doing programmatic buying across DOOH and,
  2. the standardising of reporting on programmatic schedules.


It is becoming very apparent that globally, programmatic buying, monitoring and reporting must be standardised so that everybody is looking at the data in the same format. It is extremely hard to pull a comprehensive report for a client with a number of different formats and not all using the same layouts or giving the same information. This rings especially true for global clients. With DOOH and programmatic set to be the on the rise around the world, with some indications of local agencies investing up to 10% of their OOH spend into this area over the next year, these metrics need to put into place.

As I stated upfront, our ROAD 2.0 currency of VACs is completely new to the industry and it is certainly going to take some time for all to understand our new currency. The standard media metrics of reach, average frequency, GRPs and CPMs are of course still included in the campaign results. These media metrics will be available by frame and for a whole campaign and we are certain that by offering advertisers a much better, more realistic probable reach of their key audience will go a long way to continue to entrench OOH as a great media type option for brands.

OOH is and has always been a great Brand Building media type, and we have no doubt that the OMC’s ROAD 2.0 data and the VAC currency will assist in targeting the right audience to see your message to give you the best ROMI!

The Inventory Delivery System software is available free of charge to all media agencies and clients. Please contact me on for more details.

The OMC (Out of Home Measurement Council) is a non-profit Joint Industry Committee that has been incorporated to provide buyers of Out of Home Media with a currency and survey that allows for efficient and accurate OOH planning.  It produces consolidated, inclusive and representative research covering the key OOH formats, commencing with Static Roadside panels in South Africa including the panels from all Out of Home participating Media Owners.  The JIC aims to market and grow the OOH advertising industry within South Africa.