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Nick Mawditt 

Why POSTAR's New Contract Should Be Applauded For Its Realism

Nick Mawditt

Nick Mawditt, global director of Insight & Marketing, Kinetic, looks at the new POSTAR contract and how it will expand and enhance the current offering...

Lift the bonnet of most methodologies behind today's accepted media currencies and you may not like what you find. Most settle for consistency and tradition, finding comfort in a single source currency that is known and accepted. Things, however, will change and those media that work hard to find a more accurate approach to measurement, truly reflecting the behaviour of today's and tomorrow's audiences, will benefit as media becomes more accountable and less comfortable.

The audience for Out of Home media - a category that has come to define the interaction of the consumer with communication messages whilst they are literally on the go - is a difficult one to capture. Consumers are more mobile than ever, interacting in very different ways and at different times with a variety of planned messages.

As these Out of Home experiences are consumed passively, without a conventional editorial environment, we cannot merely ask consumers to record their behaviour, like many other media do. Instead, the industry takes an integrated approach to researching reach and frequency, uniquely and innovatively combining traffic counts, a travel survey, panel audit and a visibility study.

Last week, POSTAR announced the award of a new contract, to measure Out of Home in the changing environment that will be the next six years. The current approach will be upheld and expanded, and will embrace technology in a way that attempts - at least - to provide credibility, accountability and accuracy to the most complex medium. The results will give advertisers confidence that their messages in this environment will embrace the changing dynamic of media consumption and the oncoming transformation that digital will inevitably bring.

POSTAR works as an integrated approach including four different stages of research, conducted and then combined to provide continuous panel and regional estimates for ratings, coverage and frequency. These are:

Traffic Counts; data for the movement of traffic and people in every street and road in Great Britain An Audit of every advertising panel in the measured market. Up to 245 separate measures are logged for each site Travel Surveys covering people movements, use of transport, shopping habits, air travel and use of technology A Visibility Study is undertaken using sophisticated, continuous eye-tracking technology to understand how people look at particular variations of Out of Home advertising formats in different situations. This research covers drivers, passengers and pedestrians and amends gross OTS contacts for each panel into the more accountable measure of visibility adjusted contacts

Most media currencies deliver ratings on the basis of an OTS, or opportunity to see an advertisement in a particular media. The definition of contact is very different for each media and has become increasingly arbitrary - although consistent - in certain cases. Arguably, advertisers are now relying on inefficient practices to get a realistic handle on how their messages are consumed. As accountability takes route, rudimentary definitions of an OTS appear outdated alongside more complex definitions of media value and return on investment, adding unnecessary confusion to the communications planning process and incompatibility across media neutral definitions of reach and effect.

POSTAR is by no means a paragon of virtue in this regard; it has traditionally struggled to include a broad measure of the whole media. The London Underground network was assimilated in 2006, but rail, airports and the variety of ambient opportunities are not measured under the current contract.

However, unprecedented investment from the Out of Home industry (across its many players) now attempts to measure all these facets under the new contract, whilst promising to embrace the digital formats now appearing.

The new POSTAR contract, awarded to Ipsos MORI, MGE Data and the University of London, offers a similar basic structure to the research, but with important differences. For example the contract will now focus on embracing technology. For the first time research will use GPS measurement technology to monitor people's movements as part of an integrated approach, providing more accurate and passive measure of people's actual journeys.

It will also include greater coverage of outdoor media, (featuring roadside, London Underground, rail, bus, taxis, retail and airports) and a bigger sample, trebling from its current base to 20,000 people. These changes provide potential to integrate fully with other media research, like TGI and Touchpoints.

Out of Home is a complex medium to measure, but the industry does attempt to give an accountable evaluation of consumer contact across an audited universe of panels. It is the only media that employs an 'eyes on' approach and the Out of Home universe will expand under the new contract. An increase in sample size and the employment of tested GPS technology for the new contract puts Out of Home media at the forefront of media measurement in challenging times.

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