Measurement Techniques Assessing Learning Processes Across Alternative Outdoor Advertising Executions


Joan Treistman (1991) ,"Measurement Techniques Assessing Learning Processes Across Alternative Outdoor Advertising Executions", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, eds. Rebecca H. Holman and Michael R. Solomon, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 749-751.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, 1991      Pages 749-751


Joan Treistman, Treistman and Stark Marketing, Inc.

This paper describes two different behavioral research methodologies we at Treistman and Stark Marketing use to assess consumer reaction to outdoor advertising. One approach incorporates eye tracking; the other utilizes the tachistoscope. There are unique circumstances which suggest the use of one or the other and I will describe them.

First, I will present a context for considering outdoor advertising research. Next, I will present circumstances and objectives related to eye tracking methodology for outdoor research. Then I will describe the research procedure. This paper additionally addresses the same issues related to using the Tachistoscope.


Outdoor advertising effectiveness is dependent on drivers riding past billboards. Specifically, effective outdoor advertising requires:

Attention to the board

Involvement with key components

Registration of desired information

Positive imagery


Effectiveness can be enhanced by repeat exposure to the advertisement. Consequently, advertisers often invest in multiple locations and extended periods of time which allow for repeat exposure. These efforts are intended to increase the opportunity of an advertisement to be seen at least once and hopefully, more than once.

In this context of outdoor advertising, it is important to realize that the advertiser is buying space, not time. The passerby is in control of the time given the board. Thus, it is a combination of the board's position, size, environment and execution which generates attention. Eye tracking research provides a means to document the attention getting ability of outdoor advertising. Continued involvement is dependent on other variables. Therefore, to ensure that the desired communication occurs, depends on an execution which quickly and accurately conveys the intended message and associates it with the brand, product or service. This is the issue addressed with the Tachistoscope. To simplify and differentiate - eye tracking deals with attention, the Tachistoscope focuses on communication.


I'd like to briefly describe the eye tracking process. There are two options for presenting the stimuli - either in the form of a photograph, i.e. 35 mm slide or a video. In both cases they deliver to the respondent a depiction of a drive along the highway with billboards and the surrounding environment. This makes it possible for the outdoor advertising to be missed, as well as seen -an important dimension if attention is to be measured. As the person views the slide or video image, eye movements are recorded. A beam of light reflected off the participant's eye is captured to document precisely what he or she is looking at. A record of where the person is looking is recorded onto a computer at the rate of 60 times a second. Each component of the stimulus is accounted for so that the following measures can be made:

% seeing the board

% of time spent with the board

% noting executional elements, such as

brand name





% reading copy


The research procedure is typically as follows:

1. Respondents are screened for qualifying characteristics, such as, demographics, product and brand usage.

2. Each participant is seated at a screen and asked to view a drive sequence. Timing is controlled to simulate an appropriate speed for highway or inner city driving. As the individual views the screen, eye movements are recorded.

3. Typically, after the drive sequence is viewed, an interview is administered. This usually includes recall questions, and interest in purchasing the products advertised.

If more than one brand is tested, the questions are kept brief. If the study is focused on one brand, the interview may be more comprehensive to assess the communications value of the test execution.

In essence, we learn from this what opportunity has been created to communicate information on the billboard. From an industry perspective we have been able to understand the influences of variables such as, board size, position, type of board, (poster, bulletin, etc.) and the use of devices such as extenders.

Further, the accumulation of such data across industries has provided insights regarding the unique ability of various product and service categories to maximize attention to outdoor advertising.




This table indicates that the attention drivers give to outdoor advertising can vary by category. This may at times reflect creative approaches used in the advertisements. For example, if the brand names in one category, such as "A," are always large and well situated on the boards, they are likely to generate attention. If the name is small in size, it is more likely to be missed. Category "B," exemplifies that, with less than half the respondents seeing advertisers' names.

Of course, this data is typically complemented by additional information yielded by verbal interviews conducted among the same respondents. Consequently, relationships between attention and the building of awareness have been examined. Further, the influence of the boards on brand perceptions and attitudes toward usage are explored through follow-up interviews.

The analysis of the data focuses on strengths and weaknesses of the boards in generating desired attention as well as registering brand identification and conveying a positive image. So it is possible with this approach to provide detail about one execution as well as examine the results of predefined billboard types or a category of products or services. Consequently, advertisers can determine which alternatives direct consumer attention as desired. Further, adjustments can be made to increase attention to elements of the ad which are important to the overall strategy.

For advertisers this is a useful tool in planning for better utilization of outdoor advertising. What this means to the company is a greater return on the advertising investment dollar.


As I mentioned at the outset, the tachistoscope focuses on communication. Given the potential of extremely brief viewing intervals when the outdoor board is placed on the highway, advertisers need to know if their executions have the ability to communicate quickly.

The Tachistoscope is a device which allows us to control the amount of time the stimulus is seen. There are two options in developing the research procedure. One option is to keep the distance and size of the outdoor board constant and vary the time intervals. The other is to vary the distances from which the board is photographed and keep the time interval constant. Since there is less control over board placement vis a vis consumer attention, we typically show the board from one distance and lengthen the interval of time it is seen over three exposures. The research procedure is usually as follows:

1. Respondents are screened for qualifications (product and/or brand usage plus driver's license).

2. Seated at a screen they view a projection of an outdoor board unrelated to the study to educate them to the tachistoscope process. The slide is seen for three brief intervals and the participant is asked to describe everything she/he sees or reads after each exposure.

3. Next, the respondent sees the test slide for three brief exposures. Again, after each viewing, which is typically a fraction of a second up to 1 second, the respondent is asked to describe everything she or he has seen or read on the board.

4. Typically, an interview is administered after the T-scope procedure. The questionnaire is designed to elicit consumer reactions to aesthetics of the board and the product as presented by the execution in terms of image and stimulation of purchase interest.

The cumulative effect of three viewings demonstrates the ease or difficulty for the execution in conveying its information. In addition, it displays the learning process as it occurs as a consequence of repeat exposures. Further, the responses uncover elements which may be dominant or weak. Hence, we are able to develop insights for modification which will assist the board in improving its communication value. For the advertiser this can ensure a greater return on the advertising investment.




Proposed ad "A" communicates the brand name significantly slower than ads "B" and "C," achieving parity only at final viewing (1/2"). However, brand communication is significantly faster than for ad "D."

For product identification, ad "A" significantly exceeds each of the previously tested boards. A difference such as this, we have found, can be attributable to a board's simplicity, that is, the presence of fewer elements for the respondent to actually register.

Similarly, the key illustration for ad "A" is a salient element in comparison to prior boards.

These results suggest a need to improve brand name communication for- ad "A." However, the trade-off vis a vis product identification may be palatable for the advertiser so that the ultimate outcome of the research requires a dialogue with brand management.


The evaluation of outdoor advertising executions may require an assessment of attention dynamics and evidence of desired communication. Eye tracking research permits the documentation of attention and involvement with outdoor ad components. Results from Tachistoscope procedures determine speed and accuracy of conveying desired information.

When these techniques are incorporated in a research methodology, they permit direct access to consumer behavior, allowing advertisers to optimize their use of outdoor advertising by increasing the opportunity to be seen, read and understood.



Joan Treistman, Treistman and Stark Marketing, Inc.


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18 | 1991

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