Like A Pedometer But For Billboards

NYT: Nielsen Media Research is rolling out an ambitious, expensive effort to provide data to help measure the effectiveness of outdoor advertising.
The data is collected by an Npod, a device resembling a cellphone, weighs 1.4 ounces and is equipped with a global positioning system. The Nielsen Outdoor unit of Nielsen Media Research had 850 consumers in the Chicago area carry one for nine days during the summer of 2004, tracking their movements past outdoor signs.
The participants’ travels – on foot, in cars and on trains – were plotted on maps showing the locations of outdoor signs, thus indicating who passed by certain billboards, posters on bus shelters and other signs. The device tracks exposure to the outdoor ads but could not determine if a person actually looked at or read them.
The multimillion-dollar effort by Nielsen Media Research is indicative of a trend that is remaking the advertising industry as marketers demand better methods to determine the effectiveness of their advertising. The goal is to finally provide a reply to the old complaint, attributed variously to the merchant John Wanamaker and the soap magnate Lord Leverhulme: “Half my advertising spending is wasted. I just don’t know which half.”
Advertisers spend an estimated $5.5 billion a year on outdoor advertising in the United States, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, a trade group. And through the first nine months of the year, the association reported yesterday, ad revenue rose 7.9 percent from the period a year ago, more than had been predicted.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.