It’s a little like Washington these days. Proposed solutions are flying all over the place and yet consensus seems a long way off.
There is reason for it. It’s not a stretch to say the future of the media business depends on it. With so many ways consumers are getting content, a widely accepted way to track cross-platform consumption is increasingly critical.
ESPN uses Arbitron to track TV (and radio use) both in and out of the home and other systems to show how its fans are imbibing content on multiple devices. The network has even called on the Wharton School for help.
NBCUniversal will be using Google and comScore data during this summer’s Olympics. The AMC network is using Nielsen’s “extended screen” product to count TV and online viewing.
Yet, say an advertiser wants to run a video ad on TV and digital platforms operated by ESPN, USA and AMC. Well, it’s tough to compare results, which would offer a guide for future spending.
Some buying and selling executives want the industry to move quickly to coalesce around a measurement system that will facilitate apples-to-apples comparisons. But in a sign of just how far away that might be, one of the smartest, toughest negotiators in the business isn’t buying that all impressions are equal.
“We’re still going to have the question of how effective is this particular ad in this particular environment?” said John Muszynski, the chief investment officer at SMGX.
Nonetheless, the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) hopes to rev up TAXI – an initiative announced in late 2010. Plans call for a pilot (proof-of-concept) study on developing a Trackable Asset Cross-Platform Identification (TAXI) method to begin this fall, just as the new TV season kicks off.
The aim is to establish a type of UPC code, which would track content and advertising from screen to screen. There are ways of doing that now – watermarking, fingerprinting, wrapping – yet when Arbitron uses one method, Nielsen another and Kantar a third, how do cross-platform metrics move from the research department to the negotiating table?
“There are tons of asset identifiers out there, but they don’t talk to each other … we have confusion,” said David Kohl, part of Ernst & Young’s media practice, who’s been hired by CIMM to drive TAXI.
Presenting Wednesday at a cross-platform measurement event held by CIMM, the ANA, 4As and the ARF (where SMGX's Muszynski also appeared), Kohl suggested the inability to reliably track a video's journey is bringing “significant” waste in advertising spending. Also, the content and ad markets are “inherently inefficient.” And content owners, are only monetizing a portion of their libraries. There is also a need to usher in a sort of automated workflow system, which would cut down on costs, Kohl noted.
TAXI is not a business. Kohl would argue it will make life easier for the comScores and Nielsens looking to one-up each other with cross-platform products. Once content owners and advertisers trust all video runs are captured, then the measurement companies can offer their own secret sauce on how to process and act upon the data.
The TAXI study is expected to test ad campaigns running across linear TV, VOD and digital outlets. The path to getting TAXI into the marketplace would involve using the study to show how it would work. Then, find executives to “become catalysts for industry adoption." Which would yield enough believers to roll it out.
Ernst & Young's Kohl and CIMM are in the process of recruiting companies from throughout the media ecosystem to participate in the pilot. Presumably, many CIMM members will.
Viacom, for one, has been active in TAXI development and is a backer. So is Unilever.
“This is excellent and it’s something we really need in this marketplace,” said Patti Wakeling, a top research executive at the packaged goods company.
Yet, TAXI fare is still needed. Kohl made an appeal for funding to the packed room of industry leaders Wednesday.
“A lot of your companies have not yet signed up,” he said.
Wanting results, but unwilling to pay? Sounds like Washington.