I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) has provided principles and solutions to pressing issues of digital measurement standardization.  The one that seems to get the most attention is the proposed move from served to viewable ad impressions.   The other one that people talk about is GRPs.  But the more traction 3MS gets, the more we hear and read a variety of imprecise, even inaccurate stories about what 3MS or the current stage of testing is about.

It’s certainly worthwhile to keep the conversations going.  However, the grapevine can get too twisted and tangled for the good of the ecosystem and 3MS goals.  When currencies are changing, metrics and standardization processes are on the threshold of vast improvement, and many players are angling for early advantage, it pays to untangle the grapevine a bit.

3MS is a collaboration that seeks to introduce standard definitions of core metrics for planning, buying and evaluating digital media to ensure optimal cross-platform allocations for brands.  Moreover, 3MS enlists the expertise of executives and experts across disciplines throughout the ecosystem to create a better way of identifying core metrics and ascertaining that transparent, consistent metrics are used for transactions.

3MS is also about creating a framework for standards development -- and identifying and supporting the best structure to ensure that the ecosystem continues to jointly determine core transactional metrics. After due diligence, it is clear that the best existing organization for the standard-setting role is the Media Rating Council (MRC).  MRC has the congressional mandate, the cross-media industry credibility, the experience and the moral authority to do this.

MRC is overseeing the pilot tests for viewable impressions across many advertiser and agency participants and billions of impressions.  The proposed standard for viewability is a minimum of 50% in view, for a minimum of one second.  Why the bold italics? If the grapevine is right, some parties in the ecosystem believe or tell others that this is the standard.   Others claim that the standard is an IAB standard.  Again, the proposed standard is jointly proposed across the ecosystem by marketers, agencies and publishers.   

Why is the testing still going on?  The test plan was and still is a rigorous multi-stage plan.  The first step was a small-scale pilot that taught us that yes, viewability measurement is feasible.  We’ve written about that stage in this column.  The second step is a broader test of real advertising campaigns across many sites that involves agencies and advertisers, with all specs and analyses under MRC supervision. 

If testing is still ongoing, what happens next?  The plan is to assess the results of the agency and advertiser tests and use them to determine whether or not the proposed minimum standards are the right ones for use in in-market tests.  In-market tests are typically used when currencies are in transition. In-market testing provides ongoing assessment by the entire marketplace through parallel data streams, one being the old standard and the second being the new standard.

During the current test phase, other areas for analysis have surfaced.   Very large ad sizes need additional testing of viewability to determine minimums.   Ads that “are called up” by consumer activities like mouseovers may also require another test pass.  Iframes and the resulting inability to determine whether or not an ad is viewable also require technical and measurement solutions that are already underway.

Only a rigorous process of testing and analyses followed by broad and wide education should guide negotiations surrounding viewability.  The point of all the 3MS work is to finally get this right.  This is our moment: Let’s not forget that for more than a decade we have not had the tools we have today to Make Measurement Make Sense. 

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Tags: iab, metrics
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1 comment about "I Heard It Through The Grapevine".
  1. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy , July 12, 2012 at 1:28 p.m.
    "I Heard that OOH Measurement Offers Potential Insights!" The 3MS consortium is to be congratulated for tackling this very complex but critical initiative via the MRC. As I presented at the FEPE OOH Ad Congress in Milan last month, all media MUST move to ad exposure measurement to provide the required credibility, accountability and comparability for advertisers and their agencies. So I am puzzled by the 50% viewability even as a "minimum". It reminds me of the OOH digital billboard that is half obscured by trees. Try getting full price on that panel! As applied to most media impression data, versus ad contact data, by media planning (and buying) groups, any measure estimating less than a 100% ad exposure, e.g. a basic circulation or crude gross impression at worst, invokes discounting which is often severe and unfortunately inconsistent across media agencies even within the same media metric. Such discounting serves no one on the ad playing field especially in our fragmented 360 media environment. I respectfully suggest that current advances in OOH measurement, notably the ESOMAR Global Guidelines on OOH Audience Measurement, can offer significant guidance to the iab & the 3MS consortium in ultimately providing meaningful measurement standards for the digital industry that will minimize media metrics discounting for the internet and mobile advertisers. Tony Jarvis was a member of the Steering Board & Technical Committee for ESOMAR GGOOHAM.