Eyes On ups the ante in the measurement game

March 5, 2009 by Dave Haynes

The US-based Traffic Audit Bureau for Media Measurement has confirmed plans to roll out its new “Eyes On” measurement process to 200 markets across the US, starting next month.

That will, as reported in MediaWeek, move it from 10,000 outdoor posters in Chicago to 400,000 across the country.
The goal of the program is to profile conventional outdoor, and eventually digital OOH, as the only mainstream medium that measures and reports how many people actually look at an ad versus how many people were potentially exposed to it.
The currency used to buy and sell TV and radio only measures exposure to the media. According to Joe Philport, TAB’s president and CEO, research indicates that between 30 percent and 50 percent of all people who watch TV, listen to the radio or read a newspaper, aren’t noticing the ads. The Eyes On methodology of gauging exactly how many people are noticing OOH ads, “puts the competition on the defensive,” he adds.

The sharper Eyes On analytics allow users to drill down to data about one specific panel and determine its Eyes On Impression (EOI) —the number of people that actually notice it based on age, sex, income and ethnicity. The EOIs are derived by taking research on people passing by a given sign and then adjusting for the sign’s level of visibility. That added ratings dimension could add up to more dollars for outdoor. “I’m hoping it opens up a new channel for nonusers who in the past didn’t even consider outdoor because we didn’t have what they consider to be legitimate numbers on a par with other media forms,” says Jodi Senese, executive vp of marketing, CBS Outdoor.
The gaze-tracking technology guys are conceivably rubbing their hands happily with the idea that they have technology that could change that Eyes On “people with clipboards” measurement from a manual job to one that is entirely automated and probably more accurate in many respects, and I’d imagine the technology has been pitched. I’m also not sure where that’s at.
The article explains that the outdoor industry has until now used things like TAB’s Daily Effective Circulation figures, which are just raw counts that were then discounted.
While Eyes On is a huge leap forward, it presents some challenges—not the least of which is the learning curve that users need to climb in order to use EOI research to its fullest advantage. “We need to educate people, and do it quickly, especially those on the sales side,” says Judy Crisileo, a vp at Outdoor Services and a member of the Eyes On training committee. Most observers estimate that the training process will take at least a year. 

Another hurdle the industry will need to clear is dealing with smaller estimates. EOIs are smaller numbers than DECs, on average 40 percent to 70 percent of the DEC value, depending on the visibility of the sign. According to the TAB’s rough estimate, a 30-sheet sign draws a weekly CPM rate of $2 for adults 18-plus with the old DEC data (not including any discounting). But given the new Chicago data, the EOI CPM rate for the same sign would be roughly $3.63. Even at a higher CPM, OOH remains generally more cost effective than other media, according to the TAB’s analysis. 
That’s the old elephant in the room discussion about how many ad network people, and their buyers, really want to know what the actual numbers are, versus the inflated guestimates. Somehow, the people selling ad space have to make the case that better measurement means the rates can stay where they are or go up because of their effectiveness, versus buyers who will say now that we have a better idea of how many people really are looking, we’re not willing to pay as much.
TAB isn’t really dealing with digital posters yet.
As Eyes On is currently designed, digital panels are measured the same way as static boards. And there is no measurement of mobile media, such as buses, and place-based media, such as signs in airports. Philport says there is no timeline for getting those forms of ads included. “The board wants to look at Eyes On and the utility of this new information, and that will determine how they choose to invest future money. The information is so new they want time to work with it.”  

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