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It cost £19m to create. Is Route worth it?

The audience measurement system took five years to make, but is it fulfilling its potential? Maisie McCabe reports.

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MAYBE Chris Marjoram, managing director, Rapport UK

"Route is genuinely ‘big data’, which is changing the way we plan and buy out-of-home. Yet not nearly enough is being done with this rich data set, which the industry as a whole must take responsibility for. Collectively, we must do better."
 

YES Annie Rickard, chief executive, Posterscope

"Route is fulfilling its potential for Posterscope clients but only because we’re investing heavily behind it. Our system can deliver more audience. We’ve increased effectiveness by fusing Route with third-party data sources such as EE."
 

YES Nick Mawditt, director of insight and marketing, Talon

"Route is giving out-of-home much more. But we have more to achieve in terms of translating behaviour into delivering real-time impacts. We need to embrace mobile data as part of Route so a more integrated solution is on offer."
 

NO Tim Bleakley, chief executive, Ocean

"Outdoor is where you can reach light TV viewers in droves and at a discount versus ITV. When Group M has diverted £100 million to digital out-of-home to prop up the declining ABC1s they reach on TV, I’ll know Route has taken root."

Since outdoor’s big audience measurement system, Route, launched in February last year, most people in the sector have refrained from publicly criticising it. Yet mutterings of discontent persist. Agencies are still working out how they can use the data, or whether they should use it at all.

Route, or Postar 2 as it was originally known, was conceived as the most comprehensive outdoor media measurement system in the world. In addition to audience data for roadside panels (which Postar 1 provided), Route measures the reach of posters on the London Underground, on buses and in shopping centres. The project cost outdoor media owners £19 million and rolled out three years late. Some believe it should have been delayed even further.

The problem with developing an audience measurement system over five years is that media moves so quickly. Route used GPS meters to track people’s movements; now you can get that data and more from mobile operators. Moreover, by buying a planning system off the shelf rather than creating a bespoke one, industry insiders say Route missed an opportunity to get the most out of the high-quality data.

The two biggest specialists, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Posterscope and WPP’s Kinetic, decided not to rely on Route’s Telmar Quantum planning system. Instead, they built their own – at a significant cost – to crunch raw data. Interpublic’s Rapport waited until it had the data to make a decision and is now planning its own. Talon, which works with Omnicom agencies, uses the system along with other data sets.

Another issue (and some would say a minor problem) is the reliability of the information media owners provide about their poster sites. Grumbles from some quarters suggest some of the larger media owners have been slow to update information about the angle and viewability of their sites. Others counter that this process is happening but, due to the sheer volume of sites the Outdoor Media Centre needs to validate, it takes some time.

Although everyone can agree that the data is world-class, there is still much work to be done.

MAYBE Chris Marjoram, managing director, Rapport UK

"Route is genuinely ‘big data’, which is changing the way we plan and buy out-of-home. Yet not nearly enough is being done with this rich data set, which the industry as a whole must take responsibility for. Collectively, we must do better."
 

YES Annie Rickard, chief executive, Posterscope

"Route is fulfilling its potential for Posterscope clients but only because we’re investing heavily behind it. Our system can deliver more audience. We’ve increased effectiveness by fusing Route with third-party data sources such as EE."
 

YES Nick Mawditt, director of insight and marketing, Talon

"Route is giving out-of-home much more. But we have more to achieve in terms of translating behaviour into delivering real-time impacts. We need to embrace mobile data as part of Route so a more integrated solution is on offer.

NO Tim Bleakley, chief executive, Ocean

"Outdoor is where you can reach light TV viewers in droves and at a discount versus ITV. When Group M has diverted £100 million to digital out-of-home to prop up the declining ABC1s they reach on TV, I’ll know Route has taken root."

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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