Outwards and upwards: OMANZ figures show out-of-home spend continues to rise

The Outdoor Media Association of NZ (OMANZ) has reported another period of growth for the Out of Home industry, with gross media revenue for Q1 increasing by 2.3 percent over the same period in 2013, reaching $15.8 million for the quarter. 

“It’s encouraging to see continued growth in revenue from OMANZ member operators, particularly after such huge increases in spend seen throughout 2013,” says Adam McGregor, general manager of OMANZ. “The Out of Home industry is in good health and obviously benefiting from continued investment from the media operators and the improving economic climate. We hope to see continued growth for the rest of the year.” 

Money spent on outdoor advertising in 2013 increased from $67 million to $76 million over the previous year (3.1 to 3.3 percent total share), which is very close to 2007 levels but still down on the Rugby World Cup-fuelled high of $83 million in 2011. OMANZ has said it aims to eventually attain a five percent market share of the total advertising market in New Zealand (revenue generated by OOH around the world varies considerably by market, but in 2012 it made up 4.6 percent of the total market in Australia and  10.1 percent in the UK). There is no set timeframe to reach that goal, but Chapman is confident it can achieve it.

One of the strengths of outdoor is that it it’s not sandwiched between content, it is content and is seen on its own merit. But perhaps because of that, targeting and measurement has traditionally been a secondary consideration. That’s changing, however.

Approaches to targeting and measurement vary among operators but in general, out-of-home campaigns can be planned based on three broad pillars: demographics, traffic flows and proximity. In other words, who’s seeing it, how many of them and what else is close by. This allows for targeting, for example, in high traffic areas around points of interest or close to points of purchase, like dairies, supermarkets or petrol stations. In this sense the medium has moved past its spray and pray reputation of old and can be quite tactical, says Andrew Reinholds, managing partner at media agency OMD. Nevertheless, the industry recognises there’s a gap that needs to be narrowed between what advertisers are looking for and what’s being delivered. 

“I think particularly in New Zealand there is a need for some sort of audience measurement,” says Cameron Taylor, oOh Media general manager. 

The Australian Outdoor Media Association launched the Measurement of Visibility and Exposure (MOVE) planning tool with industry support in 2010. Among other things it factors in both the standard opportunity-to-see (OTS) and the even more desirable likelihood-to-see (LTS) metric. But it also took roughly a decade and several million dollars to develop, and therein lies the rub. 

“It certainly is on our radar,” says McGregor. “But we’re not in a position to commit to a five or ten year project and millions of dollars of investment right now.”

In the absence of a system like MOVE, Craig Polley, director at the country’s biggest large format printer Boston Digital, says there’s “not a hell of a lot” that’s meaningful in terms of billboard measurement, other than traffic counts. Currently, APN Outdoor’s general manager Phil Clemas says billboard traffic is measured by counting the number of vehicles that drive past a site and applying a multiplier to account for the average number of participants. Pretty straight forward, right? Well, sort of. There’s little consistency between the counts of different operators, even for properties on the same section of road. 

As Steven Spear, general manager at large format printer Omnigraphics says: “You can’t walk up Khyber Pass with three different billboard companies promoting three different sets of figures.” 

Fortunately a standardised traffic count is something the billboard members of OMANZ have begun work on, although there’s not yet a timeline for release according to McGregor. 

Demographic targeting is a bit more complicated. There’s no way to tell with any real level of detail what the make-up of the different demographics travelling past any one billboard is, says Clemas. 

“What I can do though, is identify the demographics of the people who live within the vicinity of the billboard and you could probably, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, say they’re either going to drive past it on the way to work in the morning and/or when they return.”

Operators typically combine this high level information with other layers for a more detailed audience snapshot. For example, nGage’s business director Alan Nicholas says its retail network factors in transaction data and in-store research. At oOh Media, Taylor says the operator has its own proprietary behaviour and engagement data about consumers in its precincts. 

As the country’s largest transit advertising operator, iSite has had its own measurement challenges to overcome. Until it developed one last year, there was no opportunity-to-see metric for bus advertising in New Zealand. That was a frustrating fact for clients in what is, according to Nielsen’s AIS, easily the largest sector of the out-of-home formats. In August 2013, iSite dealt to that frustration with its Highly Targeted Outdoor business intelligence strategy. 

The road to developing an OTS was an involved process and iSite relied on third party geospatial mapping specialists and quantitative analysts to help it get there. It first mapped all its media properties, billboards and bus routes, and layered in information about orientation and proximity to points of interest. It then fed those into an interactive planning tool. After mapping all bus routes in the country in one place, a footprint for each depot emerged. Within those footprints, iSite factored in mesh block census data (based on groups of 200 households) for each route, cross referencing everything along the way with a third party to ensure accuracy. Lastly, iSite took what it knew about bus routes and travel times and combined it with traffic flow data. iSite’s chief operating officer Mike Porter says this meant, for the first time, that bus depots could be assigned an average OTS, allowing them to be compared with other depots and billboard sites. 

“We’ve entered that world of big data and we really feel intrinsically the world’s going towards a quantitative approach,” says Porter. “And outdoor would be left behind if we didn’t go there.” 

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The campaign won a heap of new business and, in an irony not missed by many, a media long renowned for its lack of directness took home a slew of gongs at the New Zealand Direct Marketing Awards. 

“It’s a big step in the right direction,” says Reinholds, who appeared in a promotional video for iSite’s campaign. “It demonstrates the desire to be accountable about who has the opportunity to see the messages you’re investing in.” 

The renewed focus on measurement is valuable, but targeting in outdoor is still applied best with a broad brushstroke and it’s certainly not the only conversation to have. The power of outdoor has always been in other areas; in its ability to convey a simple message quickly, emotively and broadly.

“Measurement is a key agenda item for all the out-of-home media owners in terms of having an authentic means to validate the audience that we deliver,” says Adshel general manager Nick Vile. “It is, however, important to remember that it is just a sophisticated count of eyeballs; essentially a box to tick in a risk averse environment. A better measurement, and an approach we focus on, is how successful has a campaign been … This is the true measurement of effectiveness and one that clients, agencies and media owners should be focused on.”

  • Parts of this story featured in the May/June edition of NZ Marketing. 

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