The evolution of measurement in OOH

Published: March 10, 2021

There’s no doubt out of home advertising has come a long way since billboards first became popular in the 1800s. As building materials changed and improved, naturally, so did technology. It’s safe to say that a billboard advertiser in the 1800’s never asked for a POP (proof of performance) report. Fast forward to today, advertisers want to know exactly how many people are going to see their ad, who they are, what they like, whether they took an action after seeing the ad, and ultimately the final return on ad spend for the campaign.

Perhaps the first OOH measurement tool, still used today in a more modern way, was the traffic count. Beginning in 1937, a device called a “traffic recorder” was invented. The device laid across the roadway and sent signals to a small box powered by a six-volt battery, from there it printed strips of paper for the traffic each hour. 

A more rudimentary measurement technique includes simply tracking phone calls. An advertiser or ad agency would set up a unique phone number and only use that phone number on their OOH ads, they then track the calls and sales leads that come in through this phone number. This method has been used for decades and is still implemented today, however it is not the most effective form of measurement today. Similar to this method and perhaps one of the easier ways to measure advertising, is to create a sale ad with a disclaimer of “Mention this Ad!” or a specific code that ties back to the creative. The advertiser then logs the sales that used the discount code to measure performance. 

Surveys have been used since the dawn of advertising and have been a widely used way to get statistics directly from customers. Surveys were traditionally mailed, conducted over the phone, or face-to-face, asking: “How did you hear about us?”. Over time, this methodology evolved to sending out mass email surveys or hosting a form on the website during the checkout process to get this information and attribute the sale to the out of home campaign.

Widely used in the 2000s and currently, is tracking OOH ad performance via a website and Google analytics. Many OOH campaigns include a call to action directing people to a specific website and sometimes with a unique code. When there is a significant increase in website visits and or Google searches, it’s safe to assume and attribute the spike to the OOH campaign.

Today, advertisers can directly attribute their digital out of home campaign performance to specific KPIs. Attribution reports measure the net lift in-store visitation, web visits and conversion, mobile app KPIs, and brand sentiment. The reports utilize ad play data, exposed mobile device data, and lookalike audience data to measure the lift in performance and attribute the results to the digital out of home campaign. Advertisers no longer need to wonder or guess if their out of home campaigns were successful, they now have the necessary tools to prove it.

Traditional OOH measurement techniques, like traffic counts on roadways, may have indicated how many vehicles passed by an ad, but not if consumers actually saw the ads. The development of new techniques in the last 5-10 years has allowed advertisers to track web visits and conversions with the use of coupons and special CTAs. Special camera placements and AI technology have given advertisers insights into counting vehicles and pedestrians as well as seeing who physically looked at the ads by tracking eye placement. And the latest and most exciting development in out of home measurement is the ability to attribute the lift in specific KPIs to the DOOH campaign with the use of programmatic technology and anonymized mobile location data.

If you would like to start planning your digital out of home campaign to want to discuss attribution reports, our team is ready to help, at no charge to you. Contact us at

Written By: Shane Hutton

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