The recent Digital Advertising and Publishing Conference in New York City sparked an always-important debate on the limits of using Gross Rating Points (GRPs) for planning, buying and measuring the success of digital video.
GRPs are a funny thing. Despite near-universal agreement on their lack of precision (both online & offline), they remain the de facto standard currency in television and, presently, for digital video.
Understandable. For ease of use, GRPs help calculate target populations (impressions) for campaigns, in both potential reach and frequency of exposure.
In addition, due to their potential for cross-media analysis of both online & offline campaigns, GRPs seem hard to replace.
Despite the current advantages of GRPs, marketers should tread carefully when using basic GRP calculations for evaluating digital video campaigns. Though in theory it seems straightforward to simply port :15- or :30-second spots from broadcast TV into digital environments, marketers risk losing significant detail and precision if relying solely on GRPs for calculating potential audience reach. Presently, a staggering 99% of online video ad units are repurposed TV creative, making it ever more critical to move beyond basic GRP estimates for planning and evaluating digital video campaigns.
Some key digital video metrics that could impact initial GRP calculations include:
Completion rates: "To view or not to view?" That is the question. Though TV viewers may change channels, broadcast ads still run regardless of exposure (or lack of it). Digital video can be more precise in measuring delivery, offering both average and quartile completion rates (25%, 50%, etc.) per creative unit. Completion rates provide marketers a critical dimension of expected performance beyond basic impression projections.
Screen sizes: Consumers use big screens at home, small screens in their pockets and every size (and purpose) in between. Varying screen and full-episode viewer dimensions (FEP, for short) typically promotes varying experiences and interaction rates depending on viewing location and intent. Video impressions based on GRPs would only reveal a single dimension of activity (simple exposure) for a multi-dimensional marketing execution. Marketers should insist on screen- and player-size verification to ensure campaign performance matches expectation.
Evolution of standards:Adding up "vanilla" GRPs masks the true creative potential of digital video. Transcending basic exposure, digital video creative options allow viewers to select relevant brands, deciding their own level of interactivity. In addition, by layering offers, social links and other personalized messages (based on intent), marketers can extend viewer interactions within the SAME exposure. Through these unique engagements, campaign performance can be used as a guidepost to help evolve digital video standards for individual brands. This shifts creative and placement decisions from a sole media directive to a shared responsibility between marketer and publisher.
Actuals vs. estimates:One of the most profound changes not reflected in any standard, off-the-shelf GRP calculation is the dynamic real-time nature of digital video from delivery, viewer interaction and response. Marketers can monitor digital video campaign activity in real time, making creative decisions based on actual performance, not on latent viewing estimates.
GRPs will always play an important role in the marketing ecosystem and overall media planning, digital or otherwise. As a rough guide stick for calculating potential campaign impressions, GRPs are a useful first step. However, based on the pure potential and flexibility for creative design, media planning, campaign execution and monitoring performance in real-time, it's time the GRP step aside and share the currency spotlight with more accurate measurements -- most notably for digital video.