How people consume media changes with time. The journey, which began by deciphering symbols on cave walls, has now brought us myriad choices of infotainment media options. Yet, even today, in a rapidly social media dominant world, OOH (out of home) media remains an essential ingredient in any comprehensive media strategy the world over.
For advertisers and media planners, media diversity has brought the ‘the paradox of choice’. Diversity means continuously focusing on, and investing in research to build effective currency measures that can identify what their target audience is watching or listening to, when, where and why.
Yet, although countries such as Australia, Finland, Germany, the UK and the USA (to name a few) have conducted extensive studies aimed at developing and implementing various ‘likelihood-to-see’ (LTS) models, the stakeholders in Pakistan’s OOH media have shown absolutely no interest in any such developments. Instead, they continue to rely on personal preferences and guess-estimates when buying outdoor media space.
Despite it being common knowledge that the sample sizes of some of the preferred measurement tools used in Pakistan are too small for accuracy, the walls around conventional media research remain tall and secure. Yet, one would think that in allocating a substantial chunk of their advertising budgets to OOH every year, the sheer absence of accurate data would have compelled advertisers and media planners to demand a major shift in media research thinking. Or maybe, even among Pakistan’s blue-chip media and advertising gurus the mindset is ‘who cares what happens to a few billion rupees spent on some untagged, unrated tin boards and vinyl printing every year’.
#### OOH measurement techniques in Pakistan remain stuck in the past.
So while in Pakistan we still treat beautifully designed PowerPoint presentations with a few colourful pictures of billboards on a few busy roads
as our guide to better OOH media buying and selling techniques, the world is moving away from buying outdoor displays in this archaic way. In fact in many countries advertisers, instead of buying space, now buy contacts and impressions based on the board-by-board ratings. (If only we would let global learnings help us build a solid media research foundation, rationalising Pakistan’s OOH media will start to look a whole lot simpler than it does now.) The integrated audience measurement systems that are in place in many countries today include travel surveys, daily effective traffic counts (DECs) and ‘eyes-on commercial’ data. In markets where best practices are in place, advertisers and media planners have access to such precise facts and figures that they are always certain about what they are buying. Their systems not only offer better buying opportunities, they boost the outdoor industry’s competitiveness in their respective media industries.
In Pakistan, advertisers must take control of their rapidly degenerating industry and actively encourage research by commissioning and underwriting a comprehensive Visibility Adjusted Counts (VAC) study. VAC not only challenges the traditional media indicators used by planners, but as an audience measurement currency, it is comprehensive enough to deliver new and reliable performance indicators for OOH that makes the entire planning and buying process auditable. This, however, requires a critical shift away from the ‘opportunity-to-see’ model that works on assumed site-centric traffic counts, so that the industry can be steered towards an actual ‘board-by-board’ measure of ‘eyes-on’ or commercial audience.
In a rapidly evolving research environment, the need to embrace new methodologies and technologically supported tools is the basic requirement. In other words, only a mindset shift will free Pakistan’s OOH media from the limitations of unreliable data. The blanks are obvious; it’s up to us what to do with them.
Rafi Abidi is the founder of Sign Source. firstname.lastname@example.org