Game Far From Over: comScore, Not Nielsen, Dominates Campaign Ratings Biz

By at least one measure -- actual measurement -- comScore, not Nielsen, is the dominant supplier of online campaign ratings, and by a wide margin. The finding, which is based on quantitative analysis of the tracking tags used by marketers and agencies to measure the audiences of their online ad campaigns, may come as news to Nielsen executives -- especially CEO David Calhoun, who has repeatedly asserted that Nielsen is the dominant supplier and that its new Online Campaign Ratings are close to becoming the online industry's “currency” for doing business.

On the contrary, a comScore analysis of all the measurement tags embedded in online campaigns during March 2013 found that nearly twice as many (1.9 times) had comScore tags as “our nearest competitor,” comScore Executive Chairman Gian Fulgoni told Online Media Daily on the eve of this week's Advertising Research Foundation Audience Measurement conference in New York.

“The conclusion that the game is over, is not supported by the facts,” he said, declining to reference Nielsen by name, just its actions. Fulgoni provided the data in response to a series of MediaPost articles, including a recent TVBlog post that suggested the game, in fact, was over. That post was based on a report by a Wall Street analyst asserting that Nielsen is poised to dominate the online campaign measurement marketplace, at a time when Madison Avenue, and the online display and video industries appear to be basing TV-like GRPs -- or gross rating points -- as their unit of currency.

They are retrofitting into the TV industry’s metric, even though online campaigns are capable of measuring much more refined behaviors and interactions, industry executives say, mainly because they want a “common currency” for evaluating campaigns across TV and online media. And because Nielsen is the undisputed monopoly in the U.S. TV ratings business, many observers assume it will also become that in online.

While that has not happened, according to comScore’s analysis, Nielsen is betting heavily on it. It invested heavily in the development of OCR, and has aggressively pre-sold it to the industry -- literally giving it away for free to major advertisers to use it, and working with media industry ratings accreditor the Media Rating Council in advance to make sure OCR got accredited out of the box.

While Nielsen’s aggressive marketing tactics have been significant, Fulgoni says the comScore analysis indicates comScore currently is the market leader, any way you look at it.

He says “22 of the top 25” global advertisers -- and all 10 of the top 10 consumer packaged goods marketers -- are using comScore’s Campaign Essentials system to measure their campaigns. “The largest TV advertiser is using us,” he added, alluding to Procter & Gamble, which recently announced it is using comScore, not Nielsen, as its online trading currency. As did VivaKi’s Starcom MediaVest Group and Zenith Optimedia Group.

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