For many years, Outdoor or Out-of-Home advertising measurement and metrics were left in the Dark Ages. TV and Radio introduced Personal People Meters (PPL’s) to accurately assess who watched or listened to a program. Digital then went a step further and overlayed first party data with third party data, to serve and measure ads granularly. In the meantime, Outdoor only had estimates. That has changed dramatically.

Many of us remember the thin black rubber hoses pulled across highways that we crossed as we sped from one place to another. Those were Department of Transportation (DOT) counters used to estimate traffic. They provided a good estimate of traffic, but not much more. However, now that mobile phones are so universal, location tracking on the phone can by synched with Out-of-Home boards to provide a completely different understanding of how those boards are seen and by whom.

New Measurement Sources

The OOH industry has accessed a number of different data points to better understand who sees an ad and when. They have started with US census data and journey to work studies, added third party data and other government resources to get a thorough understanding of demographics in every market in the country (all 210). They have anonymously tracked millions of mobile phone users and hundreds of millions of mobile trips. Eye tracking studies have been performed to learn how and when people view Outdoor displays. All of this is overlayed to DOT information from roads around the country.

Utilizing household data detailed population profiles have been created. That includes demographics and consumer behaviors. Using mobile location data, the industry identified movement patterns to help understand how and why people travel. Movement patterns are then compared to audited OOH inventory to determine metrics like proximity to the board, dwell time, and opportunities to be seen. All of this data is then combined to determine the specific metrics for a board.

DOT counts have not gone away. But it is no longer the only source of information. High traffic counts still matter. But it is also important to know the time of day, the day of the week and seasonality of a road. Millions of traffic count locations can now be cross-referenced and aligned with mobile trip data and calculated for every unique road section in the country, by direction.


Previously, road counts were multiplied by a factor to arrive at the number of people who saw a road sign. We had no idea of how many people were in a vehicle. Mobile data, regional patterns, and trip purpose information now allow for variable occupancy. Different markets have very different travel and transportation usage patterns. Markets with higher vehicle ownership have fewer people per car. The expected number of people in a vehicle is different depending on the trip purpose. Commuting trips have low occupancy, while shopping and leisure trips have high occupancy. Higher levels of occupancy have a positive impact on impressions as they lead to a higher opportunity to see. Drivers don’t see as many signs as do passengers.

Pedestrian Out-of-Home

Pedestrian pathways now have unique counts, factoring in mobile activity, employment density, business locations, and more. The estimated speed of a pedestrian has been calculated and now stands at 3.1mph. Mobile data has allowed us to understand traffic and pedestrian numbers down to a block by block level.

Outdoor Illumination

Many Outdoor boards need natural light for illumination. They can only be seen by daylight. Time of season and latitude will affect when these boards can be seen. Visibility is affected by other factors such as the size of the media, it’s angle to the viewer and the time available to see the ad. Our mapping of road networks and information on the location of each sign enables exact visibility measurement. Dwell time affects a consumers’ ability to see an ad. Speed data from connected cars and navigation apps is available on more roadways than ever before. Hourly speed data now exists for almost every road in the country.

Another benefit of mobile is that we know where home is for our audience. That provides a wealth of information on who sees our ads. We can now quantify out of market audiences as well as “locals”.

Outdoor Advertising in the 21st Century

For many years buying Out-of-Home was based on minimal data and intuition. If a board was on a road, or in a market we valued, it was considered. We had to estimate how many viewers were our target audience. The assumption was that if enough people saw our ad, it would be effective. Now that we have Outdoor advertising in the 21st century marketers can plan with much greater confidence that they are reaching the audience they desire.