Ad, Media Coalition Taps Symphony To Orchestrate 'Cross-Platform' Ad Effect Research

The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), a trade group created by Madison Avenue and big media companies to research and develop better methods for measuring audiences in an increasingly “cross-platform” media world, has tapped Symphony Advanced Media to “pilot test” what it hopes will be a better approach for measuring the effectiveness of advertising placed across various media. The test comes as others in the advertising and media industry are accelerating their efforts to understand the contribution various media have on audiences and advertising effectiveness, including the Association of National Advertisers, which on Monday announced that the Media Rating Council would become the central entity for managing Madison Avenue’s so-called 3MS initiative (see related story in today’s edition).

CIMM Managing Director Jane Clarke said the new CIMM initiative differs from other industry efforts in that it specifically seeks to address the way the industry values the underlying media impressions for various media that contribute to a variety of cross-media ad effectiveness studies that have and will continue to hit the marketplace. On Monday, for example, the Mobile Marketing Association unveiled a $1 million budget to fund a new wave of cross-media ad effectiveness research modeled on the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s famed “XMOS” studies, which are credited for influencing advertisers’ decisions to move ad budgets out of traditional media and into online media.

Clarke said CIMM’s effort is complementary to other industry initiatives, and that she hoped the new research could be used by others as a way of calibrating the way they estimate the audience impressions value of the estimates they put into their cross-media ad effectiveness research, because it will be based on more empirical research.

Unlike most cross-media ad effectiveness studies that simply ask consumers to report how much they use various media, the Symphony approach will utilize “passive” metering technologies that will actually measure what media they are exposed to and for how long.

“If you can somehow get to actual exposure that’s more robust that stated recall,” said Manish Bhatia, the president-CEO of Symphony, who previously was the long-time top digital media research executive at Nielsen.

Bhatia said the new approach would utilize a combination of technologies, including specially programmed smartphones capable of acting as meters for passively detecting a user’s exposure to various media. He said this would be coupled with other passive measurement technologies, including tagging online advertising to find out when those respondents are actually exposed to ads, instead of relying on recall methods.

While the pilot will utilize passive measurement for media exposure, Bhatia said it would still utilize respondent surveys to research “soft measures” like ad recall, brand sentiment and product purchases.

“The soft metrics will come directly from the survey,” he said, adding, “The next step would be to link it directly to sales, but for now, we are focused on top-funnel metrics.”

By top-funnel, Bhatia was referring to the so-called marketing funnel, and even though the brand metrics in the study would not be based on empirical measurement, he said getting the media exposure portion right is critical, because many previous studies have given too much weight to certain media in the past. This is a well-known bias in research circles, where sophisticated media mix models tend to have biases toward media with easy-to-input and well-accepted currency data, especially television.

Bhatia said Symphony also is developing plans and methods for tackling the biases in media mix modeling systems, but for now this project is focused primarily on cross-platform ad effectiveness research.

The project is expected to take about six months to field, and will start to report data during the first quarter of 2013.

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