We Deserve Better
open letter to the OOH industry
We Deserve Better
I love the Out-of-Home Industry in a profound, familial way. As a second-generation member of this family, OOH is in my blood. My father, Bill Wilkins, is an L. Ray Vahue Award recipient and an inductee to the OAAA’s Hall-of-Fame. This industry put a roof over my head and fed me as a child, and it continues to do so for my family today. Professionally, I have been an OOH buyer my entire 21-year career. I say all of that to qualify this open letter to the OOH industry expressing my frustration with recent events relative to the decision made by the OAAA to move our industry away from an “Eyes On (EOI) – Likelihood to See” metric and back to “Opportunity to See (OTC).”
the OAAA owes the agency and advertiser communities a clear explanation for the proposed revisions to OOH’s metric methodology.
First and foremost, the OAAA owes the agency and advertiser communities a clear explanation for the proposed revisions to OOH’s metric methodology. We, as buyers, have sold OOH for the past 12 years to our clients based on the premise that EOI’s are superior to the previous OTC-focused metric. Unilaterally deciding to go back to OTC, without explaining why the newly proposed changes are a better representation of our impression metrics, essentially tells our clients that what we sold them was unreliable. The OAAA has a responsibility to be overt about its decisions on behalf of our industry. Nothing about what transpired over the past couple of weeks was transparent.
Since the information released concerning the transition is abstruse, I’ll refrain from providing my opinion on whether the changes are positive or negative…for now. My main concern is how our industry’s leadership handled this announcement. In the time leading up to the launch of Eyes On in 2009, there was incredible collaboration between OAAA, TAB, Agency, and Advertiser communities. I can remember multiple presentations held in our offices to ensure we understood why OOH was moving away from DEC’s, how the new measurement methodology worked, and how to educate our clients on the changes. Transparency and collaboration were front and center. There was even a consensus on how updates would be made public, what PR looked like, and on the content within educational collateral. Everyone had the opportunity to weigh in on the topic, and the OAAA and TAB cooperated to ensure all stakeholders were adequately educated. In turn, this allowed us to inform our clients and demonstrate our expertise in our field. In other words, we moved forward together, as one.
no clear comparative summary of the core differences between the old and new methodologies has been published. It appears that there was no anticipation on behalf of the OAAA to recognize how these changes may be initially perceived. These omissions leave us, the planners and buyers, unable to answer any questions
Fast forward 12 years, and we learn, for the first time, that the OAAA has decided to make a significant decision on the fundamental currency by which our medium is traded, from a generically written public press release. Whether this transition is a regression or not isn’t the point, at least not the big one, yet. The OAAA made no effort to ensure all affected parties knew that a recommendation to change our metrics had been proposed. It is unclear why that recommendation was made or specifically how this will help move OOH forward post-COVID. Additionally, no clear comparative summary of the core differences between the old and new methodologies has been published. It appears that there was no anticipation on behalf of the OAAA to recognize how these changes may be initially perceived. These omissions leave us, the planners and buyers, unable to answer any questions asked by our clients about the OOH industry’s transition. In my conversations with other senior-level buyers at big agencies, no one saw this coming. Our clients found out about them exactly when and how we did, and that is unacceptable.
“Are we moving on from Geopath”?
Compound this ill-conceived launch with the equally poor timing of Kym Frank’s resignation from Geopath, and I can fully understand how trade publications interpreted the circumstances as, at worst, a coup, and at best, a disorganized execution. It is also striking that the OAAA made this announcement on its own and not in a joint press release with Geopath. You guys remember Geopath, right? That organization our industry has entrusted for almost 90 years to be the arbiter for OOH measurement? The one made up of media companies, agencies, and advertisers? Whether Kym’s departure had anything to do with this move by the OAAA, I cannot say, nor will I make any suppositions on that topic. What’s relevant here is what it looks like, and it looks terrible.
Similarly concerning is how Geopath was left entirely out of the Guidelines, specifically in the “Data Vetting, Access, and Delivery” section. This section describes an “Inventory Audit process,” but not that Geopath will be conducting said audits on behalf of its members, whose data the majority of our industry subscribes to. The exclusion of Geopath leads me to ask, “Are we moving on from Geopath”?
What’s deafening is the silence from the Agency and Advertiser communities.
I have seen many quotes from OAAA members on the operator-side supporting this transition, which is expected. The majority of OAAA members are media owners, and the OAAA exists to support its membership base. What’s deafening is the silence from the Agency and Advertiser communities. It may be for the same reason that, I too, have reserved my comments on the substance of the changes – we are waiting to get more information – and that is perfectly reasonable. However, I have yet to see one public statement of support from the Agency or Advertiser side, and the conversations I have had with the folks on my side of the business have not been positive.
there exists an unspoken (or sometimes not-so-unspoken) rule that
you do not “go against the family” in the OOH industry.
It has always felt like there exists an unspoken (or sometimes not-so-unspoken) rule that you do not “go against the family” in the OOH industry. What is lost on the members of our industry who feel this way is that open dialogue, discourse, and debate are healthy. It is how consensus is formed, and a concerted path forward is forged. We should welcome open discussion on significant issues concerning our industry. Important decisions should not be made in back rooms by a select few who hold the purse strings. I deeply care about this industry. I care about its continued success beyond its implications for the success of my own company. I care enough to call foul when I think it has made a mistake, and this was a profound misstep by the OOH industry’s leadership in multiple areas. We desperately need to get back to the core values of transparency, collaboration, and accountability. None of those virtues were present in this circumstance, and that breaks my heart.
We desperately need to get back to the core values of transparency, collaboration, and accountability
I am happy to discuss anyone’s feelings on this topic. I am always open to an opposing viewpoint. As I stated, discourse is healthy, and I love a good, well-intentioned debate. However, my main objective is not to be a contrarian for the sake of being one, but rather to sound the alarm that if this is the modus operandi for our industry’s leadership moving forward, I fear we are in for some challenging years to come.
With love and appreciation for all who want the best for our beloved industry,
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed belong solely to the author, and not necessarily OOH Today.
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