Since outdoor’s big audience measurement system, Route, launched in February last year, most people in the sector have refrained from publicly criticising it. Yet mutterings of discontent persist. Agencies are still working out how they can use the data, or whether they should use it at all.
Route, or Postar 2 as it was originally known, was conceived as the most comprehensive outdoor media measurement system in the world. In addition to audience data for roadside panels (which Postar 1 provided), Route measures the reach of posters on the London Underground, on buses and in shopping centres. The project cost outdoor media owners £19 million and rolled out three years late. Some believe it should have been delayed even further.
The problem with developing an audience measurement system over five years is that media moves so quickly. Route used GPS meters to track people’s movements; now you can get that data and more from mobile operators. Moreover, by buying a planning system off the shelf rather than creating a bespoke one, industry insiders say Route missed an opportunity to get the most out of the high-quality data.
The two biggest specialists, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Posterscope and WPP’s Kinetic, decided not to rely on Route’s Telmar Quantum planning system. Instead, they built their own – at a significant cost – to crunch raw data. Interpublic’s Rapport waited until it had the data to make a decision and is now planning its own. Talon, which works with Omnicom agencies, uses the system along with other data sets.
Another issue (and some would say a minor problem) is the reliability of the information media owners provide about their poster sites. Grumbles from some quarters suggest some of the larger media owners have been slow to update information about the angle and viewability of their sites. Others counter that this process is happening but, due to the sheer volume of sites the Outdoor Media Centre needs to validate, it takes some time.
Although everyone can agree that the data is world-class, there is still much work to be done.