Guest Post: It's about the data

June 7, 2010 by guest author, Raji Kalra


There are probably more than 60 digital out of home ad networks in Canada, and the numbers keep growing.

I’ve been involved in various ways in these kinds of networks since 2004, and watched as the industry has evolved. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is that there is far more available ad inventory than there is actual ad budget.

I bring this up because advertising budgets are not getting any bigger. If anything, they’re getting smaller as mass media transforms into niche mediums, like DOOH, online, mobile and social. So if I was a network operator competing in today’s industry, what could I (or should I) do to attract media planners, and ultimately stand out?

Well, if you look at what some networks have done, it’s really one of two things: they have either conducted research; or they provided educated “guesstimates” to attract media planners.

I’ve realized that kind of research is really about capturing data from a brief “moment in time” … and that moment sometimes can go as far back as five years with some digital screen networks.

It’s usually done with a hired research putting people in or outside a venue to count the number of people that were in proximity (not actually looking at) a digital screen over the course of a few hours. And this “moment of time” data usually represents just a subset of the locations where the digital displays are running.

In the other scenario, networks that operate without conducting research typically use educated guesses to try and stand out and attract media planners. We’ve all seen media kits and websites pitching how a network reaches hundreds of thousands of consumers daily, with little to back up the assertions.

This is what media buyers are expected to use in shifting budgets from more measured and validated mediums. As an industry, we need to do more, and there’s technology that does it effectively and reliably.

Anonymous video analytics technology – something my company Planet-Tek uses – provides not only a brief “moment of time” data, but alot more, as well. What I call “accessible and available data” can report back on actual viewership on a digital display – all day, every hour, and every minute that it is operating. It’s like Google Analytics web traffic data, but tuned to the needs of digital signage. Anyone who has used Google Analytics knows how comprehensive that data is – and it’s right at your fingertips.

We use it for displays to measure:

We’re users, not sellers, of this gear. This is not a plug. We just like what it does and the possibilities ahead. The term “actual” is what made on-line advertising so easily adopted and standardized among media planners, because it provided a true reflection of traffic against websites. Digital signage metrics need those actuals.

As more digital networks enter the industry, having access to available data, and ultimately being accountable to media planners, is going to be critical to get traction.

We’ve all seen some once-prominent networks across North America turned off. The networks failed for a variety of reasons, but they were all challenged to sell their advertising inventory and provide relevant data.

More networks are also going to shut down, unless they get a better measure of who is watching. Those who can demonstrate that will have a far better shot.

It’s about the data.

Raji Kalra is the Managing Director of Planet-Tek Systems, which runs vendor-driven networks in the health and wellness sector.

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