It seems a long time ago since our government imposed Covid-19 alert level 4, essentially consigning us all to stay at home for four weeks. Who would have thought such restrictions were going to be imposed just a fortnight earlier.
The impact on the Out-Of-Home (OOH) industry was immediate. We witnessed a considerable decline in traffic volume across our digital network and it is highly likely all OOH vendors have been dramatically affected in some way. We must not understate the amount of change that has occurred nor should we assume that all will return to normal.
The reality is we simply don’t know what the new normal for OOH will look like.
International travel will likely be disrupted for quite some time with domestic air travel also in for a slow recovery. Printed OOH formats may take time for advertiser confidence to return mainly due to longer lead times. Public transport and commuter services will be somewhat restrained by social distancing guidelines. However, retail OOH is well positioned to assist with the recovery as are roadside digital formats. Digital OOH has the added advantage of immediacy and flexibility. But the key question is, how can we verify the speed in which our roadside audiences return?
Lumo invested in building its own traffic-camera infrastructure across its digital media network from when it was established in 2016. Integrated with clever software, the network captures in real-time, vehicle speeds and volumes that travel towards and passes each of its screens. The software was developed by US company, AdMobilize and Lumo has partnered with them from the beginning.
During the lockdown period, Lumo has been in the fortunate position of being able to leverage that traffic data to update agencies and advertisers on the changes in its vehicular-based audience volumes and travel patterns by day.
How does it work?
In simple terms, whilst the camera network continuously streams live data, the traffic software uses an AI algorithm to identify individual vehicle movement heading towards each camera. It then captures speed of each vehicle and counts them as they travel over a cross-line detection zone.
The data offers an accurate, tech-based measure of vehicular traffic volumes using a methodology that is uncomplicated and transparent, no smoke and mirrors or tricky data modelling. Lumo’s traffic analytics platform simply records and reports only those road traffic volumes heading towards and in view of its screens, as they occur. To help illustrate this, I have inserted a GIF showing the technology in action.
Compared to other platforms, this solution doesn’t rely on mobile device data to determine a ‘modelled’ traffic total. Whilst there are clear benefits in the application of mobile data for OOH when modelled correctly, it lacks the granularity and functionality a camera-based solution has available to it, to accurately record traffic counts, at site level, in real time. This is by large due to an absence of device density (the number of devices that are opted in to app-based, location tracking), data recency (difficult to get location data playback in real time) and data fidelity (difficult to get sufficient volume when geofencing devices at an OOH site, and determine whether the device is actual facing the advertising screen).
How did it help during New Zealand’s Covid19 Lockdown?
The technology has really come into its own. With such rapid and unprecedented change in road-user volumes and habits, Lumo’s clients were anxious to understand the quantum of change and get an understanding of the scale of the disruption.
Lumo accessed its database to create a recent traffic volume benchmark; a measure of the ‘norm’ for future comparisons. We used the week of February 17th, 2020 as the benchmark. We then prepared and shared weekly reports tracking daily changes in volumes by market and measured those changes against the pre-Lockdown ‘norm’.
The weekly updates started from week commencing March 16th and will continue until we reach the new ‘normal’. In addition, the New Zealand Police Covid19 Insights team have also requested the daily traffic updates to supplement their other data streams. Regardless of who is using them, these reports offer useful insights to the daily changes occurring now and also during the recovery phase, which will hopefully inspire advertisers to return more quickly to DOOH.
What is next?
Digital OOH’s flexibility, immediacy and cost efficiency will help brands rebuild and recover more quickly. As people start to venture away from their homes, away from their TVs, Netflix et al and spend less time online, DOOH will begin to resume its rightful place in the media mix. And agencies and advertisers will appreciate the new level of audience accountability afforded them by Lumo’s real-time audience analytics.
Old OOH daily traffic metrics and modelling platforms will suddenly look very outdated and irrelevant in today’s changed world. It would seem implausible to use pre-Covid19 data in a post-Covid19 world.
To further enhance the authenticity and versatility of Lumo’s data-driven audience analytics, will be the addition of more real-time data to prove screen visitor frequency via new number plate recognition technology, currently in testing.
Launch of the integrated audience tool, which we’re going to call LENS – is currently in planning with a launch date announcement expected sometime within the next month or so. Depending upon you know what!
Phil Clemas, is Lumo’s digital CEO and co-founder.