Canada's DOOH industry group releases its own set of audience measurement guidelines

September 29, 2009 by Dave Haynes


The Canadian Out-Of-Home Digital Association/Association Canadienne de l’Affichage Numérique (CODACAN), the trade association for many of Canada’s digital screen networks and technology suppliers, has released its guidelines for trying to standardize how DOOH networks are measured and pitched.

The guidelines, which you can download here, are just four-pages and get right to the point. The US-based OVAB guidelines released almost a full year ago now are quite a bit lengthier, but can only be read and understood if you have a special research-nerd decoder ring. The dummies version for the hard of thinking like me is here.

Getting to a common metric is seen as absolutely crucial to moving the ad-based side of the industry forward.

A common ratings metric for the potential advertising audience for digital screen networks, that can be as widely varied as retailers and medical waiting rooms to subway platforms and giant LED ad boards, is critical to advancing the industry’s fortunes, and has long been urged by Canadian advertising agencies and their clients.

The new formula directly addresses the uniquely nuanced challenges in measuring audiences exposed to these DOOH venues, specifically:

Opportunity to see: instead of measuring how many people were in the vicinity of the media, how many people had the opportunity to see the screen or screens?

Dwell time: how long were these people in the presence of the screen?

Loop length: what is the duration of the programming, content and advertising, before it repeats?

The basic premise is that an ad spot must run 1 time per average dwell time in order to have the opportunity to be exposed to 100% of an individual screen’s (or full network’s) declared audience.

The formula breaks down like this:

Opportunity To See (OTS) a Screen or Network  X  (Dwell time/Loop Length)  = OTS Ad *

*Recommended guidelines and sample formula applications at

CODACAN is recommending the immediate adoption of this standard formula for audience evaluation. A Request For Proposal to be issued this Fall will lead to a contract for an accredited research firm to develop formal methodologies to measure and verify these audience metrics across all CODACAN member networks. The RFP process will be governed by an advisory panel that will include a cross-section of seasoned agency and client representatives, as well as digital network operators.  

“We are happy with the progress that we have made to date,” says Michael Girgis, Chairman of the CODACAN Board, “and we are particularly enthusiastic about the productive collaboration we’ve seen between all members involved in defining a process to standardize and add more credibility to digital out-of-home audience numbers .” 

The common ratings formula bears similarities to those developed and released a year ago by the US-based Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau, but also draws on insights and reach/frequency metrics adopted more than a decade ago by pioneering DOOH networks such as Elevator News Network.

I am active in CODACAN, but have had no role in developing these guidelines, other than helping craft the press release. It has been a long time coming together and one of the most interesting things, to me, is it looks pretty much like a spreadsheet Ed Voltan, one of the key authors of these guidelines, put together years ago when he was running sales at the old Elevator News Network. That was 10 years ago and he needed a way to figure out audience size.

I have used that spreadsheet a few times building business plans for myself and others, and it still works just fine.

One of the good things about these guidelines (the OVAB ones are great, too, but HEAVY going) is the inclusion of examples. It helps knuckleheads like me put the numbers in some context.

These guidelines have been and will be somewhat contentious for more established media players because they have long used other types of audience measurement that delivers somewhat inflated numbers based solely on raw eyeball counts. Standards will dilute those numbers for some, which is not a great moment if your rates are joined at the hip with audience size.

But the media planning community up here in the snowdrifts, icebergs and polar bears of Toronto and Montreal have been quite clear the way forward for the industry is to establish those common metrics.

If you run an ad-based network or sell to those people, the guidelines are required reading. There WILL be a test. 


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