What CTV Can Learn From OOH Advertising Measurement

What CTV Can Learn From OOH Advertising Measurement

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What if I told you (in Lawrence Fishbourne’s best Morpheus voice) that in some circles, OOH measurement is, in fact, more advanced than CTV’s equivalent?  And that CTV has a lot to learn from its much older, but just as rapidly innovating, advertising brethren. 

Billboards, bus shelters, and airports in the public space are getting it more right than TV content delivered over the internet to your living room.  But don’t worry, there is hope for CTV.  With a little bit of elbow grease, industry collaboration, and good old-fashioned data and technology, CTV too can actually figure it out.

As streaming continues to experience its meteoric rise, it will become increasingly critical that advertisers can measure the efficacy of the channel.  Long gone are the days that you can just set it and forget; particularly as other digital channels continue to struggle with longstanding issues (that’s another article).  To that end, here are three ways CTV can benefit from the trails already blazed ‘outside the living room.’

Cant We All Get Along?

In OOH, there are so many diverse types of screens that it can be challenging for buyers to identify the right media for a campaign. And this is true in any medium–it is difficult to accurately and consistently assess quality without specific guidelines or metrics.

There are currently initiatives going on with the MRC to standardize OOH media. But the OOH industry didn’t wait; we started addressing standardization ourselves. That’s why we saw the launch of programs like Vistar Verify and Place Exchange Clear – which evaluates inventory quality in programmatic DOOH head on.  On a broader scale, we’ve achieved levels of standardization in ‘consumer exposure’ to OOH across all units nationwide – which is critical for accurate measurement (more on that later).  In 2021, the OAAA and its members agreed on specific rules on how to properly capture consumers via mobile location data across different OOH media types and a formal methodology was released. This type of industry wide collaboration and acceptance helped us considerably. 

Conversely, in CTV, the channel saw the formation of the JIC in the aftermath of Nielsen’s challenges with TV measurement. But then it became a feeding frenzy for competing firms to establish an adequate ‘tech’ replacement.  This didn’t lift up the market, it further fragmented it. Standardization across all measurement currencies is critical for the future of the medium for both buyers and sellers, but it needs to serve the entire ecosystem – not just tech intermediaries looking for monetization opportunities.

If OOH can measure millions of pieces of physical inventory successfully that all look fairly different, CTV can figure out how to come to a consensus on how best to transact on a bunch of TVs that all are delivered similarly via the internet.  We’re not cracking atoms here.

 Exposure vs Conversion

The fundamental challenge with measuring the effectiveness of any channel that isn’t natively digital and/or natively 1:1 is that a consumer doesn’t typically ‘convert’ on the same device that they are exposed to an ad on.  But so what?  That’s always been the case.  And that’s never stopped linear TV and their deca-billion dollar market.  Nor has that stopped OOH. 

This is where data and technology plays a pivotal role.  Like in OOH, first standardize exposure, then link exposure to some sort of identity, then link to outcomes.  Utilize randomized control cohorts to show lift and extrapolate to fill in gaps where privacy restrictions degrade the data.  CTV doesn’t have the added burden of connecting consumers in the physical world with exposure, so this should be a slam dunk.  The tech is there, now it’s time to drop the politics to allow it thrive.  

CTV has at least tried to inject accountability with tactics like QR codes, but QR codes are not the natural post-exposure behavior of most consumers (particularly in a lean back viewing environment), nor is it scalable.  The future is showing the real exhibition in how the ads drove activity, and it depends on them solving the divide between exposure and conversion, and fixing the ‘problem.’ 

Focus on the Why

There is a fundamental difference between counting impressions and attribution.  And we all know that attribution is more important. 

In OOH, the industry got all strung out about opportunity to see (OTS) vs likelihood to see (LTS) – this is the sleight of hand stuff that gets people distracted.  Brands don’t care about OTS vs LTS – they just care about results.  

Similarly, in CTV, they are strung out on 3 F’s (fragmentation, frequency, and fraud).  All three of these problems are important (and fixable), but they are also a distraction from the main concern of marketers. Once we focus on the why (which is, of course, to drive results), the conversation changes.  At the minimum, we figure out that the impression is good, but we should spend all our time and attention figuring out what the post-impression result is.  That’s what the advertiser cares about, and that’s not what companies are trying to solve right now.  

When we shifted this conversation in OOH, virtually every campaign/conversation/strategy grew.  When planned and executed properly, OOH campaigns drove single digit percentage web visitation rates, massive lifts in store foot traffic, and highly efficient cost pers/CAC.  In most instances, OOH outperformed online video and other programmatic channels.  All of this in addition to the inherent brand awareness benefits of running on such large format, big beautiful screens seen by the masses in public.  

If this was the case in OOH, there is zero evidence to suggest CTV wouldn’t be similar – once measurement catches up.

So Now What?

There is too much at stake here for everyone to be looking out for their own self-interest. eMarketer projects that at its current pace, CTV ad spend will grow to $40.9 billion by 2027. There are too many eyeballs on CTV and too many problems in core digital (and linear TV) to not take advantage of this opportunity.  Measurement is critical to everything going forward and CTV will only solve its issues by following in the footsteps of OOH. If we can do it, you can do it.  But again, as Morpheus would say, “there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

Craig is the Founder and CEO of Accretive Media, a programmatic digital out-of-home advertising platform that empowers brands to become a part of consumers’ everyday lives. He has worked relentlessly to help brands achieve their objectives through addressable and accountable digital media.