The ecosystem-wide initiative, Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) is now moving from guiding principles and recommended solutions to testing, which is the first phase of implementation. This is the stage where we will learn what we don’t know. Moreover, after acquiring information, we will be able to course-correct together.
The ANA, 4As and IAB embarked on the 3MS journey starting in February 2011. Since then I’ve had the privilege of watching some of the smartest people in marketing and advertising collaborate to create proposed solutions to the challenge of capitalizing on the many metrics available in digital media. In tandem, they are forging a path to cross-platform measurement.
This is no small task. It has taken giant minds and courageous souls to get us to the point where testing can begin. As a matter of fact, nearly 40 business leaders and functional experts, all senior executives, participated in 3MS. And the members of the ANA, 4As and IAB were joined by NAA and the OPA in supporting the work of these executives as facilitated by Bain & Company and MediaLink LLC.
It has taken a keen understanding of the role of metrics in transactions and in valuations. While recognizing that digital media are unique and require metrics that ascribe value to interactivity in ads and content, the 3MS task force also postulated that fundamental definitions and counts must work across platforms. Without that, brand media dollars cannot be allocated in a common workflow and with relative ease.
The first guiding principle of measurement calls for a transition from ad impressions served to ad impressions that are viewable. This move will make a digital display ad impression more comparable to other media. One recurring comment is that we must be clear on one important point: streaming video ads are already delivered in viewable form and thus do not require a change to meet the first solution. The digital media community accepts that testing, learning and changing how business is done will lead to short- and long-term improvements. And, we accept that this requires rigorous effort and resources.
Among the analyses that have to be completed are assessments of how different ad units in different contexts are affected by viewability requirements. How is inventory supply changed? How do sales planning and channels incorporate the new information for forecasting? The viewable impressions “pilots” specifications are being developed, guided by the Media Rating Council (MRC) and the 3MS team.
Why the quotations around the word “pilots”? The word means different things to different constituents in the ecosystem. The meaning we are trying to convey is testing before going live. “Pilots” can include small, early-phase laboratory tests, as well as large live tests with parallel data environments. The latter refers to generating and evaluating new data while still producing and transacting using old data.
The second guiding principle calls for a currency based on audience impressions and puts forth the introduction of online demo GRP reporting of viewable impressions and digital video. While there are significant additions to the current analytical toolbox currently in the market courtesy of Nielsen and comScore, more work needs to be done to develop and test the specifications the ecosystem requires.
The 3MS team is also planning pilot tests of a new ad unit classification system and taxonomy for banner, rich-media and streaming-video ads. The proposed classification system recognizes that all units are not created equal. Digital media lend themselves to great diversity of advertising units and capabilities of the ads to carry images and be interactive. The many units and capabilities need standard nomenclature so transactions are clear to all and the challenge of assessing how well different types of units build brands can also begin.
Principles, solutions, pilots -- complex, exhilarating and challenging -- and this is just the first wave of tests.