Measuring Our Audience

I don't come from an offline advertising background, but sometimes I wish I did. Maybe all these audience measurement arguments would make sense then.

We seem to be getting all twisted up and confused about how to measure our audience online. Our confusion makes it hard for people to buy media from us. When I look at it, it seems like we're just using different words to mean the same thing.

The OPA just came out with a white paper that says, in part, that uniques might not be the best way to measure audiences. To be honest, I always thought uniques were a pretty prehistoric way to buy. This is especially true for the weirdos who use them as an excuse to put wildly ridiculous frequency caps on their campaign. What real world reason would there be for you to want to limit exposure to one view per unique per month? Perhaps they want to guarantee zero recall?

The OPA position is that advertisers probably shouldn't make buying decisions solely on the number of uniques represented. Their research suggests that the manner in which people consume media has a bearing on how they should be measured and sold as an audience.



Fair enough.

But there seems to be this attitude that if we talk about uniques we're automatically assigning subjective value to what is merely a datapoint. A unique is a completely objective metric. Yes, it can be abused (like the one view per unique per month example above). But I'm sure it can also be a helpful measurement. Really, I'm sure of it.

Why am I sure of it? Because it's not that far off from reach. You've heard of reach, right? He and frequency hang out together (insert rimshot here). Together, they control large volumes of offline media spending.

We keep hearing from the agency folks that we need to plug in to the GRP planning model in order to get considered on the "cross media" plans. This makes sense. If we don't conform to the way everyone plans, we'll never get any part of a large chunk of money that will always get spent that way.

Sounds like the OPA and the agencies are singing the same tune (though the OPA doesn't come out a say it). Sounds like everyone's moving towards buying and selling based on GRPs.

So where does this lead us? If we lean on the unique technological capabilities of the online medium and start proposing GRPs across the board, will we capture more marketing dollars? Remember, we're still only getting 3% of the marketing budgets despite 12% of the "eyeballs" (anyone else sick of that statistic by now?).

Honestly, folks, we're not that far off.

If we're selling to the agency, aren't they going to look at loyalty as pretty much the same thing as frequency? Congratulations, we've just won more of the GRP pie!

If your Powerpoint shows off the number of monthly unique visitors you get, aren't you really just telling them you've got good reach numbers? Congratulations, we're fitting in to the GRP model!

But wait, I have the perfect combination of a unique, loyal audience! How do I get rewarded for presenting the advertiser with such a perfect fit? How about a higher rate?

Gee, maybe if we started playing the way our agency friends would like, we'd finally be able to command some of those CPM rates we claim to be worthy of.

Now all I need is someone to show me how to deliver one Gross Rating Point through my ad server....duh.

Scott Brew is President & CEO of, an online advertising network and marketing services firm based in Grand Rapids, MI. He can be reached at

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