Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

“We don’t want agencies to use this data as a safeguard”

Published in Sep-Oct 2015

Ali Hamdani, CEO, MOVE, on the measures his company is taking to ensure they become industry currency.

MARYLOU ANDREW: Why did you launch the outdoor ratings almost six months behind schedule?
ALI HAMDANI: When we started collecting the data in June 2014, we were supposed to deliver the ratings in December 2014 or January 2015. However, we did not have a benchmark because the industry has not done such a study and once we started we realised that the scale was larger than we had initially anticipated. The biggest challenge was the prevailing security situation in Pakistan; it affected the entire process, because the respondents we were collecting from were not comfortable sharing their information with us.

MLA: What kind of information were you asking for?
AH: We were asking about their travel journey, their day to day schedule, where, how and when did they drop their children to school, and so on. At the same time the army had initiated a major operation in the wake of the Karachi Airport incident advising people to be careful about divulging personal information. We had to conduct 4,000 face to face interviews, but we doubled this number to 8,000 to ensure that we would achieve a success rate of 4,000 interviews. After the face to face interviews, we had to re-interview the same 4,000 people via a telephonic survey. Then the Army Public School (APS) tragedy happened in Peshawar and everything just came to a standstill. All the permissions we had from the official authorities were cancelled and people did not want to give us their information over the phone.

We were also doing a GPS survey so we had given our respondents GPS devices to record their travel journeys in line with international practices, but then our respondents, especially those from the lower SECs, were stopped at security checkpoints and questioned about the devices.

MLA: Were you ever concerned that the project would not get off the ground?
AH: Yes, a point came especially after the APS Peshawar tragedy when we thought that the current security situation would not allow us to move further. We were asking for highly personal information, the sort that even I would not be comfortable giving to a research agency. The other concern was that perhaps the respondents were not giving us accurate information. I thought we would have to go back to the drawing board and change our methodology but our local and international partners were very understanding and they were all motivated to launch this.

MLA: MOVE is a fairly new organisation and there were many other more established companies bidding for the outdoor ratings project. Why do you think the PAS chose you?
AH: The big difference was the system we proposed. Our international partners, Telmar and Cuende are working side by side in Australia, Spain and the UK, where this system was implemented about 10 years ago. The system we have brought into Pakistan is based on the learnings of those 10 years. I can confidently say that is the most robust system available globally. Our biggest edge was that we had an internationally recognised system that had been implemented globally.

MLA: How do you arrive at the ratings and how is this information shared with clients?
AH: The system requires three inputs: traffic count, whereby you calculate the absolute number of people travelling on a certain road; the demographics of the people travelling on that road; we then collate this with the inventory [billboards] on that road to calculate the OTS (opportunity to see). OTS is based on the different characteristics of the sites, including the height, the angle, the speed of the traffic and so on.

Once you have all this information you plug it into the software known as the Inventory Management System (IMS), owned by Cuende. It is a mapping-based software that provides the total number of views (impacts) on the site and the number of views targeted so that if you enter your target audience, it will give you the views based on the target audience. Then based on these numbers it calculates the reach, the frequency and the GRPs. This information is shared with clients through a software called Quantum, which is not only a ratings system but a planning tool as well, so that the agency or the client can plan their entire campaign based on the ratings of individual sites.

MLA: The TV ratings are paid for by the clients and media owners; is the same model being used for outdoor?
AH: OOH is a highly fragmented category in Pakistan and there are two major challenges. One is identifying the actual media owner of a specific site which is almost impossible. So had we been asking OOH media owners to pay, the challenge would have been figuring out who they were. Added to this was the fact that a specific site is being sold by media owner A to the FMCG category and the same site is also sold by media owner B to the telecom category. So how are we supposed to know who sold that site to the specific company unless the client shares their entire media plan with us, which they will not do. So the remuneration process had to be through the client. The second challenge was figuring out what the client’s spending on OOH was in order to charge them a percentage of their total spending.

Again, unlike TV, there is no price benchmarking in OOH. (There isn’t really any benchmarking in TV but the price variation is only 10 to 15% whereas in OOH it is 10 to 40%.) So we are now charging the client or advertiser a certain fee against the software and the services. There are some clients who give us a fixed annual fee, while others give us a percentage of their spending.

TV has evolved a lot and you have the best planners and buyers there. This is not the case for OOH... so now you either need planners from the TV side or planners who understand the value of the data and come up with an optimised plan.

MLA: Medialogic has been accused of manipulating the TV ratings. What measure have you taken to ensure that the same does not happen in OOH?
AH: TV is probably the most defined category in the advertising mix in Pakistan, whereas OOH is a complete mess. We were very concerned about this because, like Medialogic, our bread and butter is the transparency and the authenticity of the data. None of our data is stored in Pakistan, it is all directly uploaded on to Cuende’s system in Spain and they have no personal interest in this area. We have also had a globally acknowledged auditor (Tony Jarvis) from day one who put us through a tough technical audit and that is our biggest line of defense.

All the changes we make to the system have to be given to Cuende in writing and verified by the technical audit. It is important to underline that we are stepping on a lot of toes. For the first time we have a measurement system in Pakistan which gives a reality and sanity check as to what you are buying and why you are buying it. Unlike TV where you had a transition from Gallup to Peoplemeters, this is a measurement system coming into effect immediately and some of the stakeholders still do not realise its value for the industry. There will be some media owners who will not like this but in the longer run they will benefit as well.

MLA: How many cities and sites are you covering and what is the expansion plan?
AH: We are currently covering four cities (Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi) and 6,500 plus sites. This includes all fixed (i.e. non-moving) inventory, such as billboards, streamers, pole signs, green belts at roundabouts, etc. On paper, we plan to increase the city bouquet next year and to take it to a further three to four cities. But to increase the number of cities or expand the project, we need clients to sign up with us because the next phase will include further investment.

MLA: What obstacles do you need to overcome to ensure that the ratings become industry currency?
AH: The biggest challenge is the usage of the data. For years, OOH buying has been based on gut feel, where agencies propose certain plans, clients make small changes and they go into execution. Now all of a sudden the entire plan can be based on GRPs. You will know the impact, what your target audiences are seeing, what the average campaign life will be and that perhaps the campaign you are about to launch will maximise its reach in 10 days.

Now this is very unusual for our industry where we buy OOH for six months, so either you will have to change the copy (i.e. the skin) or you only buy the site for 10 days. Making agencies and clients understand how the software can be used and what an optimised plan will look like is the biggest challenge. There is also a huge gap of human resources in this industry. TV has evolved a lot and you have the best planners and buyers there. This is not the case for OOH. We are already telling clients to realign or restructure their organogram at the agency end.

So now you either need planners from the TV side or planners who understand the value of the data and come up with an optimised plan. We don’t want agencies to use this data as a safeguard; we want to take the industry to a point where they can plan at an optimal level. Another aspect is that the entire software is benchmarked against the TV one. All the calculations (GRPs, CPRPs, TRPs, reach, etc) are exactly the same as those for TV. Once used properly, there will be a comparison between the TV and the outdoor segment and that will be our biggest success.

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