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Moving towards complete transparency in pDOOH

Remi Du Preez

Managing Director 


Remi Du Preez

Remi Du Preez

26 September. 4 min read . Opinion

(Credit: Polygon)

In an advertising context and across all advertising mediums, measurement has always been a vital component in any campaign roll-out. Not only does it allow us to demonstrate return on our clients’ spend, it also provides a valuable opportunity to assess performance, with learnings that allow us to fine-tune our execution to the benefit of our industry at large.

In the world of programmatic digital out of home (pDOOH) media, it is also an area that is fraught with contention. Contention around how measurement methodologies are applied, what data is measured, and how we represent these insights to our clients. While the need for standardised metrics and measurement is clear, consensus around what these look like is lacking.

The good news? We have made significant strides in a short space of time, and South Africa – while a relatively small player on the global OOH stage – is already on par with many of our international counterparts in the measurement arena. We still have a long way to go in delivering completely transparent, standardised and insightful reporting but we are making moves in the right direction.

To see where we’re heading and what we need to do better, we first need to take a look at where we are currently.

State of the pNation: How we currently measure programmatic digital out of home

In a pDOOH context, the purpose of measurement is to understand whether someone who was exposed to a digital billboard subsequently took the desired action, such as purchasing a product or visiting a website.

Thus, there are two key measurement drivers in the pDOOH space: audience data, which relates to the number of consumers exposed to the advertisement served, and performance measurement, which encompasses the action taken by a consumer upon being exposed to an ad.  

Measurement tactics generally involve observing mobile devices that are in proximity to a flighted advert, and whether that device then ‘moves’ to a specific location, which shows intention to engage. So, for example, a consumer might see an ad, and move to the advertiser’s retail store or visit their website.

In a POPIA and GDPR-compliant world, the OOH industry takes privacy seriously.  We never collect ‘first person’ information – all data is anonymized, aggregated and presented at macro level – and everything we capture requires the consumer to opt in.

Being honest about our blind spots

Most established OOH markets have a recognised measurement body. In South Africa, we have the Outdoor Measurement Council (OMC), which provides data on traditional and digital billboards for members. While this data is sample-based, it does offer a robust indication of how many people are in front of a billboard at different times of the day.

However, one shortfall is that the OMC does not currently prescribe how its data models be used at the granular level required within the pDOOH space.

Internationally, the World Out of Home Organization (WOOHO) aims to provide a robust, best practice framework for the global OOH industry, offering recommendations around how audiences should be measured and applied at billboard-level.

The ‘fatal flaw’ in both the OMC and WOOHO’s methodologies is that they require members to extract this information and apply it on the supply side platform (SSP). Because –  who are these members? Media owners. The same media owners that need to commercialise this data, and who bill their clients per ad play.

While I believe that the majority of media owners are careful and ethical in their handling of this data, this system brings with it the potential risk of misuse or even fraud. There is a clear need for this process to be overseen by an independent third party to ensure accuracy and compliance.

Moreover, the OMC also does not have access to venue-based digital sites yet which is starting to become a bigger part of the advertising mix.

While industry bodies such as OMC (SA), Geopath (USA), ROAD (UK) and MOVE (Australia) have made massive strides in regulating and standardising the measurement of traditional billboard spaces, there is still a significant gap in the regulation of venue-based or ‘internal’ inventory i.e. billboards that are typically viewed at pedestrian-level, inside of venues such as gyms, shopping centres etc.

As it stands, there is no universally accepted measurement methodology in DOOH. And while aiming for perfection might be a pipe dream, we do need to advocate for a level playing field that allows us to compare apples with apples.

The introduction of attention metrics

The WOOHO has adopted attention metrics, and prescribes the application of the Visibility Adjustment Calculation (VAC) metric as global best practice, which assesses the likelihood of an advertisement being seen by an audience a key aspect of attention. This metric has been embraced by the OMC, which has launched VAC nationally and is encouraging South African media owners to adopt it.

For example, if 10,000 people drive a particular route daily, our previous methodology would reflect 10,000 impressions. However, VAC takes other factors into account, to give a more realistic picture. If your billboard is 100m off the road, for instance, only 100 of those 10,000 commuters might actually see it, and so we cannot charge a client for 10,000 impressions.

For this reason, media owners have been slow to adopt VAC  but it is a move in the right direction as the global industry shifts towards attention metrics.  

Moving towards transparency

Polygon is currently working towards having all of our audience data methodologies and metrics available on our website for public scrutiny in the near future, and has committed to being completely open and transparent with our clients. While it’s still likely to be some time before the global industry reaches universal consensus in its measurement methodologies, our clients have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what we’re measuring, why we’re measuring it, and how we’re measuring it.

I maintain that we, as an industry, need to be 100% transparent with clients with where our strengths lie, and where we currently fall short. Increased transparency brings more trust and ultimately more investment. And more accountability brings with it the drive to do better.

Polygon is a programmatic aggregated digital out of home (DOOH) publisher network, making up a network of hundreds and soon, thousands of screens. The network is specifically designed to maximise omni-channel advertising campaigns while integrating accredited audience data using world-class technology. Polygon offers advertisers a single point of entry into the continent’s largest network of DOOH inventory, allowing them to target audience sets across multiple touchpoints and venues along the customer journey.