Data Fusion Could Miss Out On Three-Screen Measurement

Last week's announcement about a potential competitor to Nielsen seemed to shine a spotlight once again on the thorn in everyone's foot known as three-screen measurement. One could even surmise that the latest volley might be more about leveraging the power of the customer over the vendor for pricing concessions. But I think the underlying truth is that data fusion is challenged, and this frustration is manifesting itself through announcements like this one.

Focusing on Single-Source Data

There is only one way to get single-respondent data, and that is to tie the exact person using the exact television, to his or her exact follow-up on the Internet, and then to product purchase or abandonment (online or retail). Actual sales data related to the marketing expense is the gold standard that data fusion cannot deliver without consumers involved. The problematic task of linking variables across samples (like TV and Internet) is alleviated if the consumer sees a benefit to participating in this measurement.



Linking the TV content (or advertising) to the Internet for each consumer is possible, in the age of digital television, as long as the consumer gets a benefit from the action and opts-in to the technology. For example, consumers might like being allowed to see products on TV, click with their remote controls, and then moving their selection to the Internet. The consumer mobile handset experience could share many of these same features.

TV Adds RSS Feeds

I would compare linking the TV and Internet, or "clickable television," to how Web publishers will embed XML code into a Web page so visitors, using RSS, can then bookmark or "tag" specific content to their Google Reader or Digg for follow-up. Consumers love to tag Internet content. Extending these same features into the television platform needs to be carefully planned out by all partners in the eco-system. But once this is deployed, consumers are trained to adopt the technology quite rapidly.

(Disclosure: I founded Backchannelmedia, mentioned below.)

Verizon's FIOS, and other platforms, are starting to roll out Web-based "TV widgets" like a Facebook or Twitter widget. These widgets can display alongside digital television content as consumers are watching. In addition, Backchannelmedia has embedded data inside digital TV content; throughout New England, viewers (through a small consumer panel) have been able to click with their remote controls and move electronic coupons or online shopping carts from TV directly to a Web browser since May of 2008. FIOS' TV widgets could potentially also be adapted for clickable television.

But I don't think tagging television content will be limited to just a few companies (like Backchannelmedia or Verizon). I think clickable television will become just as ubiquitous to TV as RSS is to the Internet, and hundreds of tech firms will be running to get into the market in a few short years.

Claude Hopkins Enters Digital Age

The idea that data fusion is a long-term solution for three-screen measurement is short-sighted. By using clickable television technologies, marketers will most likely be able to gather the deep insights that have been missing since the evolution of mass media and also the sunset of "Scientific Advertising "(written by Claude Hopkins and published 1923).

I believe, though, that data fusion and ratings for mass media planning will survive in some form. Once consumers discover, however, that they can move TV content (and advertising) to the Internet with one keystroke this simple action will bring to life integrated campaign planning and introduce Claude Hopkins to a whole new audience.

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