Start-Up Wires Cars for Ad Measurement

Are online advertising’s deep metrics sparking increased accountability in all media? Start-up IQStat is testing a system that measures in-car radio listening and exposure to outdoor ads.

Like Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM), the IQStat system uses technology to track previously un-trackable media exposure. IQStat says it’s focused on measuring consumer behavior and ad exposure. It considers its data to be complementary to what Arbitron provides, although IQStat will also provide ratings.

“Our focus is on advertisers and helping them to better understand radio, and in doing so, helping them calculate the return on investment that they get by advertising on radio,” said Carl Ceresoli, CEO of IQStat.

The company also hopes broadcasters will sign on to better gauge audience reaction to their programming, and to adjust it accordingly.

There’s growing industry consensus that the common method of tracking radio listening, self-reporting through diaries, isn’t reliable enough, nor are data available quickly enough. Many observers (IQStat included) believe advances in technology and in Internet advertising are leading advertisers to demand more accountability for their advertising spend.

“With the Internet you have the capability to see the next day what happened,” said Ceresoli. “With radio, that is non-existent. That is one of the key things that we bring to the medium.”

Duluth, Ga.-based IQStat connects a device, about the size of a VHS tape, to the car radio. It collects information about radio listening, and uses global positioning system (GPS) technology to track when the car drives past outdoor advertising. Every night, data from the device are sent back to IQStat, which provides client access to aggregate data via a Web interface.

Data collected include: whether the radio is on or off; if someone is listening to a tape or CD; radio volume level; where the vehicle is located; the station to which the radio is tuned; the demographics of the listener; and whether the vehicle is running or not.

IQStat uses “friendly” people, though not company employees, for the initial test of the equipment because frequent access to their vehicles can be required. After the test phase, it will recruit panelists through random-digit dialing for a launch in the Atlanta market. Participants will receive a small monetary gift. IQStat promises to use the GPS to help participants find their vehicle should it ever be stolen.

IQStat offers qualified applicants free access to the data as part of its pilot program. The service is expected to formally launch at the end of the first quarter of 2004.

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