See, literally dozens of times in the past two years, I've had agency types as well individuals from rich media providers ask me how others measure the success of their campaigns. Obviously, there are as many different ways to measure the success of rich media as there are types of rich media itself. The overriding trend, as far as I can see, is toward measurement that implies more time spent viewing or interacting with the ad unit.
But, should interaction with an expanding banner, for example, count for more than viewing a streaming video? Or, should the video viewing count for more?
I'm not about to take sides here. I have too many friends in that segment of our business to be that dumb. What I want to know is what the people who buy rich media value more, on the whole.
"Increasingly, in interactive, branding counts as well as direct marketing counts," said Charles Buchwalter of Nielsen//NetRatings. "As we look to the future, I think we're going to see more of a fusion between the metrics that impact direct marketers and the metrics that people concerned with branding look for when they measure campaigns and site views."
I think most people in our industry agree that the reach/frequency models of television are increasingly becoming regarded as a norm within interactive as well. Consistency counts. And having a consistent measurement idiom will help us distance ourselves as an industry from the Tower of Babel that our multiple measurement units represent to non-interactive buyers today.
Want to know the No. 1 reason why so many reluctant-to-try-interactive buyers stay away? Look no further than our mishmash of metrics, which make sense to most of us, but which confuse and confound most people who work in other media.
In television, Nielsen's antiquated ratings system is under continued fire for its diary-based method of collecting data on users' viewing habits. Since the advent of digital technologies, we media types have been continuously puzzled by the lasting use of this antiquated method. Cable companies, the innovators in this battle, are pushing for more precise measures and trying to force Nielsen to replace their old system with one that provides information right from viewers' homes electronically, via an appliance that provides input automatically and minute-by-minute.
The thing is, however, as much as people criticize the television ratings standard, it remains an actual standard, even if by proxy.
As anyone in this space knows, what marketers care most about is whether particular Web users are likely to purchase products. Remember - we're in the marketing business, trying to sell. But while it is necessary for us to answer those requests with actionable segmentation in the short term, it is equally necessary that we all work to create an accepted set of standards as a benchmark - regardless of the fact that we know these benchmarks will need to be revised as we all learn more and more about what audience segmentation works.
This is one reason why rich media is so sexy to many industry observers. It provides the best opportunity for interactive to look like television. Until it does, and until we can all agree on an industry standard that works across multiple kinds of units, I'll anticipate as many different kinds of responses to my earlier question as there are responses themselves.