Commentary

Good News For Online Video: Standard Metric May Be In Sight!

Did you see the joint research published by the ANA and Forrester this year? Sixty-two percent of respondents think TV ads have become less effective in the past two years. What's the market's reaction? Lots of talk about seismic change and then, drum roll please, more money is spent on TV. Man, those guys on the broadcast side have it good. 

We're not TV bashers here. Yet we believe zealously in online video and think more advertisers should be including it and/or increasing it in their media mix, because we have the data and insights to show it works for a number of marketer objectives particularly as a complement to TV: in creating awareness, driving engagement, lifting brand metrics, and, yes, even in driving traffic. Yet, by all statistical measures online video ad spending lags far behind consumer migration to online video. Why?

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At a recent Interactive Advertising Bureau board meeting, two very well-respected agency executives were asked what the  No. 1 barrier to growth was for online advertising. The answer was "measurement."

On my way home from the meeting I read Michael Zimbalist's call to "Measure the web as you would TV..."  It's an excellent review of our current measurement predicament and unlike so many industry opinion pieces that simply bemoan the current status, Zimbalist, vice president of research and development operations for The New York Times, provides a blueprint. He even proposes a name:  WRPs (like GRPs, get it?).

The only shortcoming in Zimbalist's blueprint was that when he proposed several standard units that could be measured as a WRP, he forgot to include pre-roll. Good news, though. In a follow-up conversation, he agreed that pre-roll would be an excellent addition. "Online video ads, whether pre-, mid- or post-roll, are natural candidates to be measured in WRPs," he said.

We fully support the idea of creating an industry recognized measurement unit such as the "WRP." We ask others to support this as well -- and we call on the IAB, the AAAA's, and the ANA to endorse the idea and formalize a process for pursuing this goal. 

In fact, we did call the IAB to find out if they support this idea. Good news again, they do! "Of course the IAB supports this," says Randall Rothenberg, CEO and president. "In fact, our Measurement Standardization Initiative is IAB's highest priority this year, and will remain so until marketers, agencies, and media have a simpler, standardized set of ‘currencies' that allow brand advertising to be bought, sold, measured, and optimized online. The 4A's and ANA have agreed to help lead a task force with us to drive measurement simplification, so we think -- finally -- the cross-industry momentum exists to get this done."

How would it work? As Zimbalist proposes, the basis of calculation of a WRP would be the same as a GRP:  reach and frequency, with an agreed-to definition of exposure or impression depending on the ad format. For example, in order for a pre-roll impression to qualify, the user would have to demonstrate some level of engagement with the ad (for example, a minimum of five seconds exposure).

TV buyers would find it much easier to buy WRPs than impressions since the metric more closely mirrors the way they buy TV using GRPs. Traditional planners could allocate money more easily across platforms knowing an industry-recognized standard was the unit of measurement.  

Everyone in this industry talks about how the share of overall media consumption spent with online video doesn't match the advertiser spend. By creating an industry-recognized WRP unit of measurement, we will finally find out if the reason was artificial (lack of measurement) or has some other root cause.

7 comments about "Good News For Online Video: Standard Metric May Be In Sight!".
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  1. Joshua Chasin from comScore, July 13, 2010 at 11:57 a.m.

    Here's the problem you're going to run into. In a month in which 4 episodes air on CBS, Two and a Half Men delivers about a billion impressions-- more than Hulu (the top ranked provider of online video ad impressions in the US in comScore's Video Metrix) delivered in May. And if you start qualifying that with a 5-second rule, the delivery will only get less gross.

    The foks at the IAB know I disagree that the core issue is metrics. What IS the core issue? See today's Online Meyrics Insider to find out.

  2. Pinaki Saha from Me!Box Media Inc., July 13, 2010 at 11:59 a.m.

    Still ruminating in the old formats of a forced impression based ad entry. I sincerely hope that the change comes soon. These thought leaders are still bouncing around within the confines of the old technology framework.

  3. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, July 13, 2010 at 12:17 p.m.

    There already is a metric that measures engagement (or the decided lack thereof). It's called the click.

  4. Bruce May from Bizperity, July 13, 2010 at 12:45 p.m.

    You never defined WRP... is that suppose to be "Wana Be Rating Point"?

  5. Mark Burrell from Tongal, July 13, 2010 at 2:10 p.m.

    Great article. Really does need an accurate stick. Not sure if mocking the TV model is the best policy however. They reported that DVR penetration had actually increased the number of ads watched. Unless I am a total outlier, that claim seemed completely absurd.

  6. Mike Kerans from CRO Partners, July 15, 2010 at 3:53 p.m.

    Scale is an issue, no question. Hulu and the network digital digital extensions offer familiar programming but-- not the reach advertisers are used to.

    Instead of planning and buying Hulu and the digital extensions as part of TV (in the Upfront, etc.) why not combine them with their first cousin, the short-form, quality content most viewers are consuming across the Web? (TV still great at delivering TV.)

    We'd then have an online video category, with the full range of content types, a lot of scale along with unique and uniform display and engagement attributes.

    Then wrap that category with standardized measurement system that enables impressions to be measured and purchased in a "video neutral" way, to quote Rino Scanzoni of Group M.

    With scale, sight, sound and motion engagement and "WRP" targeting/measurement, how can online video NOT garner more TV spend and continue to move the sales needle for our clients?

  7. Betsy Sperry from One Degree, July 15, 2010 at 9:11 p.m.

    We agree consistent and accurate measurement of Web video is a key gating issue to its full potential/adoption.

    That said, marketers have often flocked to new channels that offer a lower media cost out-of-pocket (eg: banner ads) long before there was a measurement lingua franca. Thus, we suspect an additional "root cause" is the relatively high cost of production (for quality, strategic and compelling video) when compared to the cost of media. Sure, anyone can (and does!) produce content with a Flip but the folks at YouTube will tell you about the myriad flops that were meant to be the next viral wonder.

    That's why, in addition to universal measurement standards, great Web vid requires the fundamentals that make any marketing effective: user insight, clear marketing objectives, creative originality, targeted media inventory, consistent and illuminating metrics, AND an appropriate business model balancing the cost of media relative to the cost of production. In essence, an ability to ground the effort strategically, tell a good story, and bring it to life in a feather-weight production modeā€¦ that's the real triumph.

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