In a 2013 online survey carried out by iSite Media, 58 percent of responders pinpointed a lack of measurement as the biggest issue facing outdoor media. In fact, the higher you went up the corporate ladder, the more important the issue became. When the survey took only business and media directors into consideration, the number jumped to 68 percent, which was four times higher than any of the other issues listed.
The results of this survey indicated that clients now demand greater accountability from agencies than ever before. For every marketing initiative launched, clients expect to see a measurable return on the investment laid out to bring the campaign to life. And while other media owners were starting to use various data sources to track the success of campaigns on their platforms, the outdoor category still had little in place to measure whether or not a campaign was reaching its target market and, more importantly, whether there was a causal link between a campaign and product sales. This problem was evidenced in the reluctance that Kiwi clients exhibit when it comes to using outdoor advertising as a medium to deliver marketing messages. Comparatively, the outdoor market in New Zealand represents only three percent of annual ad spend, while the contribution varies between four and 12 percent in more mature foreign markets.
International case studies also indicated that countries with measurement systems had higher market share. India and China, two nations without such systems in place had lost market share in buoyant trading environments, while the UK and Australia have, with the assistance of measurement capabilities, managed to maintain or grow market share under difficult trading environments.
iSite Media wanted to increase the overall share of outdoor advertising, but understood that doing so would require the incorporation of a system that would allow for greater measurability of campaigns. The challenge was that this tended to be expensive. Australia’s industry-funded system cost AU $20 million to incorporate, while the UK’s was even more expensive at £19 million.
Despite holding about 34 percent of the Kiwi outdoor market, iSite Media is still a relatively small player when compared to international juggernauts and thus didn’t have access to the millions of dollars that were required to introduce the necessary changes seem in the UK and Australia. Its measurability system had to be established within an austere budget of $250,000—and this was made even more challenging because iSite Media had decided to integrate the system into bus-based advertising, the platform considered the most difficult to measure.
So why make something that’s already challenging enough even harder by focusing on the trickiest aspect? The reasons for this were two-fold. Firstly, billboard sites have daily ‘opportunity to see’ (OTS ) figures based on car traffic data, while there was no such system in place for buses. And secondly, while having a share of the billboard and airport markets, iSite owns 98 percent of the bus-advertising market— meaning that in investment in this department could be made without the consent of competitors and all benefits would be delivered directly to iSite.
If the ‘Highly Targeted Outdoor’ initiative was a success for bus advertising, then the company could also roll out a similar system applicable to billboards. Once this was done, the success of the bus project could be used as a bargaining tool to persuade competitors to join the measurement system, at a cost of course.
At the outset, it would’ve been much easier and cheaper to develop a system based on the assumption that high OTS figures automatically translated into sales. However, the iSite team demanded more. They wanted a system that was based on valid assumptions, had passed an external independent review and gave advertisers an accurate means by which to measure ROI. At the time, a single company, acting independently of its industry, had not put such a sophisticated measurement system into effect anywhere in the world—an insight made even more troubling by the fact that there was no silver bullet in the shape of a provider that could establish a solution that met all of iSite’s requirements. This, it became evident during early consultation, was a project that demanded collaboration.
So, in an effort to develop a solution that ticked all the boxes, iSite worked with a trio of companies to bring the project to life. First, Critchlow geospatial data analysts were commissioned to measure 1,500 buses in 35 depots on 22,000 routes and the traffic on 220,000 road segments. This loaded information was then overlaid with mesh block data taken from census results and the debit and credit cards of residents living along the bus routes. To make this dense data more accessible to customers, iSite instructed Datamine to build a tool that could compare and rank each depot based on all the factors and product outputs contained within the data.
Information Age, a website programming consultancy based in Auckland, then graphically showcased this information through a series of simple maps, which could be used to show clients the routes and buses that would be best suited to their businesses.
Before unveiling the system, iSite handed everything over to a collection of data companies for final approval. Once satisfied that the information was an accurate reflection of the data, these companies gave the go-ahead and iSite Media launched its ‘Highly Targeted Outdoor’ offering on 15 August to 250 stakeholders and media planners.
Within 12 months, iSite Media had achieved its goal by delivering a sophisticated measuring tool with an initial investment of only $220,000. Not only did this system offer clients a means by which to track the effectiveness of their campaigns, it also proved profitable for iSite Media.
At the time of writing, the ‘Highly Targeted Outdoor’ has resulted in an 18 percent increase in transit media, and this growth has equated to a 450 percent return on the funds initially invested into the project. The initiative has also drawn new advertisers to the bus medium, resulting in a 13.4 percent year-on-year growth for the outdoor category. The initiative also caught the attention of the judges at the New Zealand Direct Marketing Awards, and this saw iSite walk away with a Supreme Nexus, a Gold B2B award and three other golds.
And beyond the awards and impressive stats, the incorporation of this initiative also illustrated how much value innovation can bring not only to a single company but to an industry as a whole.
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