Viewer behavior needs to be a factor in measurement, prof argues

August 30, 2007 by Dave Haynes

A prof from Ball State University’s Center for Media Design has taken an interest in the dynamics of our space, fascinated by the increased amount of TV consumption outside of homes.

Now we all know digital signage is not TV, but for the purposes of looking at something, it’s a term people can get their heads around quickly.

“In late 2005, we found that almost 30% of participants consumed some sort of TV outside the home in the day they were observed — and 9.4% of all TV viewing was similarly out-of home (work-based, 4.1%; car, 0.5%; other, 4.8%). It’s a safe bet that as the amount of out-of home TV continues to increase, so will the time spent exposed to it, ” writes the author, Mike Bloxham, in MediaPost. “In any event, the scale of the economic opportunity is not insignificant.

Already, we have a plethora of network providers, “platform” owners (retailers, mall owners, transit operators and hotel chains) and content of one sort or another — some familiar, some less so, and some specific to the location.

As the out-of-home video market continues to develop it will — in keeping with other sectors — do so on the back of robust measurement and the continued enhancement of our understanding of the consumption and impact of the content, and the related behaviors exhibited by the audiences reached. Right now we are seeing a significant amount of activity in this area.”

Bloxham notes there are all kinds of efforts to establish some measurement criteria and provide research on how people consume what he calls “shopper media.” But he says the space is far from universally accepted as a real medium and notes it “is complex and perhaps more subject to behavioral and environmental influences than most others.”

He says in stores and other public places that have video advertising screens, those screens are rarely the sole focus of potential viewers. Good exceptions, he notes, are screens in elevators and waiting rooms — where there is little else to look at.

“I don’t have the answer to any of these questions, and I have no doubt that many of those selling inventory of various of these platforms have survey data in their sales kits. But I’m prepared to bet that a good deal of that data is based on self-report and it will be looked at with a good deal of skepticism on the part of the advertisers and agencies that are being asked to part with large amounts of money to stake their brand’s claim on various parts of the out-of-home video landscape.

After all, video encountered in environments that are visited for other purposes are very different from video consumed on a TV screen at home or on a computer when choice is involved. On most occasions in the out-of-home space, there is no choice or control over the content and the video will often not be the primary focus of attention (at least it won’t be for very long). This is where our needs come back to the behavioral rather than simply measurement of foot fall.

As the The Audit Bureau’s “Eyes On” initiative recognizes, it isn’t about who passes the content, it’s about who looks at it and — hopefully — takes something away from it.

No doubt Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau and others will be announcing their plans in the coming months for enhancing our understanding of issues such as the ones outlined above (and no doubt more besides). When they do, we can expect to see the fight for “TV” dollars warm up as advertisers gain confidence in their ability to reach audiences in locations more relevant to their message than the couch in the family room (assuming that’s what the research reveals, of course).”

  1. Steve Yetsko says:

    If they aren’t looking, it’s not working…that’s the bottom line. We can debate the whole audio thing too, but in the end if they aren’t looking, it’s not working.

    Rob Gorrie and I have been debating this as of late. Say we used Eyes rather than feet as “currency” for Digital signage. How would that change things? It would kind of change things the way the internet changed and the way TV is currently evolving.

    Traffic being equal there are two main reasons one screen could get more eyes than another: 1)better screen 2)better content (ad or non-ad content). The owners and operators of networks like to say that they often have no control over the placement of the signs nor do they create the ads that go on them. They just sell the inventory….that’s it. And the currency they use is how many feet walk by the Digital Sign. Under this Business Model there is no real incentive on the part of the DS network to optimize screen effectiveness or content effectiveness…it all pays the same.

    The real value, though, isn’t when someone walks by a sign, but if and when they look at it. Right? Imagine if Eyes were the currency. Network owners would now have an incentive to place screens in places where people would actually LOOK AT them instead of walk by them. In a recent project we found slight movement of a Digital Sign increased eyes on screen by 300%(traffic being equal). Under the current model there is no incentive to understand best screen placement. I’m betting advertisers would pay a little more to know that people atually saw their ad in steaqd of just walking by it.

    If eyes were the currency there would also be a strong incentive for DS networks to let advertsiers know if a particular ad was ineffective so that it could be replaced by one that is effective at getting eyes. Why? Because bad content (both ad or non-ad) would hurt the value of their network. Advertisers and agencies would be able to test content in real time in the real context to see what can attract and engage much like they do on the internet. Eyes on screen being like Click throughs. How do you know what content people will watch? By watching what they watch…duh!

    Who wins if eyes are currency instead of feet? In the long run everyone involved. Networks get better. Content gets better. Ads get more effective. The retail experience gets better. the biggest winner is the viewer. They Get Digital Signage that they actually want to watch.
    The whole industry moves forward.

Leave a comment