New techno-sensorium improves measurement

Audience measurement for out of home advertising in GB has just become even more accurate. It now better reflects real-world audiences for campaigns. This is thanks to the introduction of Route’s world-leading multi sensor tracking devices (MST).

With the rapid expansion of digital signage, we were concerned that a two-tier audience currency may emerge where ‘open sky’ environments would be better served by Route than those indoors, such as rail stations, tube or shopping centres. This is because, whilst we used GPS tracking as the basis of our study, gaps in signal occurred – such as when travelling underground. These gaps were filled with other types of research including recall measures, observation or data modelling.

Conscious that all environments need to be treated equally, a new approach to data collection was required. This meant a significant investment from the industry and resulted in the introduction of the new multi sensor tracking meters. These devices contain a veritable high-tech sensorium (see fig 1.) that can be used to interpolate locations between valid GPS signals.

Fig1. Sensors included in the new multi sensor tracking meters

Crucially it also includes an advanced GPS chip that picks up signal much quicker than other standard devices. This provides Route with second-by-second tracking of where people go, whether indoors or out, above ground or below, to an accuracy of two metres. Great Britain is leading the way in the use of technology to track people movement and is the first country in the world to provide this level of detail for out of home audience measurement purposes.

It is a significant step, as it means that all behaviour is now collected passively using a common means. We no longer need to switch to secondary sources once the GPS signal drops out.

The benefit will be felt most keenly in the arena of digital screens. Precise knowledge of exposure time is required to accurately measure their audience. We now provide this in equal measure for all environments.

The MST devices have been in field for a year. We have the first real opportunity to evaluate the difference the technology is making. To measure the effect, the average weekly distances travelled were used as a comparable metric. We compared the first 12 months of MST readings against the year before, September 2015 to August 2016, that used the previous multi-modal solution.

Overall, the distances recorded by the MST have increased, for vehicular and pedestrian travel.

So, what are the scale of the changes?

Fig. 2. Comparing the average weekly distances travelled by mode 2016 vs 2017 (with MST)

The average weekly distance travelled in a vehicle for 2016/17 was 257.7 kilometres. This is up 6% from the previous year. When focusing on distances walked, a greater effect is seen. Route now shows that people walk an average of 13.4 kilometres per week, up by 14% from 2015/16.

While improvements to the measurement were anticipated, the scale of these were eye-opening.

You would expect that the main gains in distance recorded would come from those that travel underground or spend the most amount of time indoors, where GPS signal is more likely to be affected. This is true.

Fig. 3. Comparing the average weekly distances travelled by among commuter types 2016 vs 2017 (with MST)

Those claiming to travel by tube at least five days per week see their weekly walking distance increase by 44% from 11.71km to 16.90km. There are similar increases among heavy rail users +47% (to 17.61km).

From an advertiser perspective, greater distance travelled on foot should, in theory, lead to a greater probability of seeing out of home ads. This, in turn, should lead to an increase in the audience measured by Route.

The improvements offered by the MST mean that Route now better reflects the lives of the British public and so more accurately measures the audiences for out of home advertising campaigns.

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