Keeping the Impression Redux
I agree with Tom Hespos and his argument that the impression definition is the best that we currently have at our disposal. In fact, check out the work reported by George Ivie at the IAB conference (download and review the section titled “Ad Campaign Measurement and Audit Guidelines: The Tower of Babel in Measurement“). It shows the complexity and work involved in defining any metric as a standard and how close we are to a standardized impression.
I also want to reiterate that media measurement should be at the most granular level possible, leaving us the maximum flexibility.
But, there are other arguments. The biggest of which is comparability with TV. While from a planning standpoint we discuss TV shows in terms of audience and rating points, and we plan based on GRP’s and R/F, the reality is that THE ONLY THING NETWORKS WILL GUARANTEE IS A CPM BASED ON IMPRESSIONS. Now, to the credit of the TV and National Cable industries (or the agencies who forced the issue 30 years ago), these are target, not total audience impressions such as Men 18-34 or Adults 25-54. It is not unreasonable for us to expect to see a time in the very near future when all buys on the Internet take into account target audience impressions, not just total impressions. When we as planners think about our TV schedules and even the guarantees, we think about rating points, but the networks will not guarantee this (although they are basically the same thing as impressions couched another way). They also will not guarantee an unduplicated audience or the equivalent of unique users, which Jim argues could be the metric. No measurement other than the impression and its related metric the GRP/TRP can offer comparability to broadcast. And that is what we need. Not something else that the major advertiser will be confused about and use as an excuse to avoid the medium.
Relative to a fixed placement, it is an interesting idea, but it overspends against some visitors while not reaching others. This medium wants to be more like broadcast in this regard where a rotation through a number of desirable positions will give the advertiser the best balance of reach and frequency. Making it easy for a client to find an ad, while admirable, cannot be the sole reason for the expenditure or placement.
Mr. Meskauskas goes on to invoke the magazine model in his defense. But unlike broadcast and Web where the audience is scattered throughout the vehicle and one must schedule accordingly, the average reader goes through the whole issue in almost all cases. This has been proven time after time by research like the “Eyes On” study, Starch and Politz research and the MPX concept as delivered by MRI. As such, buying a fixed page is fine in this medium as you pretty much reach your target anywhere in the issue. Sure, some positions have better visibility, and it’s the buyer’s job to make sure that this is optimized. But position does not affect audience. And, in the end, whether we admit it or not, we evaluate based on CPM impressions. Again, the impressions are based on target, not total audience, but they are still impressions. If we used @Plan (some call it the Web equivalent of MRI) to overlay against the total of impressions delivered by a site for a Web campaign, we would have an apples to apples comparison basis with magazines, based on impressions. And that is what we are looking for.
Lastly, Mr. Meskauskas calls the limitation of reach through fixed position a “Red Herring” and not much of an issue, as others have not talked about it. I suggest that Mr. Meskauskas broaden his involvement in the working industry committees of the AAAA’s, ARF, IAB and OPA rather than just write. This issue has been brought up by no less an esteemed personage than Erwin Ephron, who has basically stated that if the results of current investigations establish that the Web campaigns are in fact not getting significant reach, then we will have to rethink what we want to use the medium for and whether it can be effective in mass branding at all in the short term. As you may recall, the argument here is that fixed pages not only limit the reach of the advertiser by advertising on individual pages rather than across the site, it apparently stops other advertisers from achieving a reasonable percentage of the cume potential of the site as a whole, leaving the non-fixed position as a remnant advertiser with lower reach than the potential. It’s like buying NBC without the prime time.
Trying to reach the total audience of a site, while a noble goal, is an elusive one without a “scatter” type schedule on the site. Even with this, logic taken from other media patterns (all media vehicles having heavier and lighter users or involvers) suggests that buying any more than 2/3 of a vehicle’s cume potential is just plain too expensive.
So let’s leave audience calculations to the theoreticians and spend our energy on figuring out how to buy the impressions that we do buy correctly. With the right dispersion on a site and discounting for those visitors who are outside of the target so that we maximize the impressions that we do buy by purchasing the sites with the most efficient composition against the target.
Then we can spend our energy on developing something that really matters, like accurate reach and frequency, which could be the Holy Grail in bringing the big advertisers to the table with meaningful, rather than token spending.
Editor’s note: Want to join in on the discussion? Please check out MediaPost’s Online Spin discussion board and let us know where you stand on the issue.