Commentary

The Shape of TV Measurement To Come: Part 2

As digital video technology rocks the boat, the hegemony of Nielsen television ratings, GRPs and age/gender demographics is being challenged by splintered metrics for TV platforms ranging from national and local TV to VOD, OTT and programmatic, from linear to mobile and addressable … among others.

What measurement methods and metrics make sense for this new landscape? How are buyers and planners trying to translate and integrate metrics across new and legacy channels? A recent MediaPost panel led by Nick Cavet, associate partner digital strategy, VSA, explored some of these issues.

“Without measurement, you can’t monetize anything,” stressed Jeff Boehme, SVP, television research, ComScore. “But the key question is how we manage the measurement,” in order to achieve the accountability required to continue generating revenue, he added.

Boehme’s assessment of the current status of measurement: “We’re right at the beginning,” he declared, asserting that few marketing professionals would say that OTT, or even traditional TV, is being properly measured at present. “Everything is new again, because every time a new delivery platform comes along, you have to figure out how to measure it,” he added.  

Because ComScore “works with everyone, including agencies, television networks and publishers, we have an excellent view of what’s happening, which is the collision of the digital side and traditional television side,” he said. “These are two very different worlds, with different accountability issues, metrics and values. ComScore’s challenge is how to put all of this together so that clients can monetize these media in ways that make sense, and really understand the value of the ecosystem as a whole.”

While it’s important to move from employing only age/gender demographics to more advanced demos, “what’s most important, from an advertiser’s standpoint, is whether [a campaign] was effective, and whether there are better ways to do it,” he added. “So it’s critical to involve the client in the monetary discussions about efficiencies and effectiveness.”

Boehme also argued that return path data from set-top boxes — the data used by ComScore — will become ever more important. This data source provides “massive usage sets without managing separate panels,” and large data sets are “driving a lot of the metrics we’re seeing today,” he said. However, he also emphasized that when millions, or even billions, of data points come into play, “if you don’t know how to interpret and manage the data, it can actually hurt your business.”

(A friendly reminder for competitive context purposes while reading this column, particularly vis-à-vis comments that may relate to Nielsen: WPP has ownership stakes in ComScore and Rentrak, as well as owning Kantar. Kantar provides the measurement services for DirecTV’s national and local addressable advertising. And in November, WPP, Dish Network Corp. and AT&T teamed to buy Invidi Technologies Corp.)

How Much Scrutiny, How Soon?

“I agree that we’re at the beginning again when it comes to measurement — and I find myself wishing that we were at the middle,” said Brian Hughes, SVP, audience intelligence and strategy, Magna Global.

Hughes observed that it will be interesting to see how quickly and deeply marketers scrutinize the metrics and accountability for new media platforms, in comparison with how that scenario has evolved in digital advertising. For instance, viewability is now considered a very important metric, but digital display advertising thrived for years before clients even began to ask about viewability, he noted. “How closely will, for instance, OTT programmatic be looked at? Is back-of-the-envelope math sufficient for now, or will marketers begin to interrogate it the way they now do with digital? 

“While more data isn’t necessarily better data, having large sets of data, like set-top data, is very helpful,” Hughes added. “I don’t think that panels alone are going to be sufficient going forward, although they do have their place.”

Magna believes that evangelizing for OTT and advanced TV is part of the agency’s role, and the agency has “a cross-section of clients who have at least tried one or more” of the newer platforms, Hughes reported. “But obviously, at this point, giving them metrics that they can be really comfortable with is a challenge.”

Magna: Focused On Time Spent, Impressions
Asked what types of analytical metrics clients are asking for, Hughes said that, from a high-level perspective, his team and clients are most interested in how people are spending their time.

“In our opinion, time spent with media can’t expand any more, so going forward, time is just going to shift between media,” he said. “We haven’t to date had a holistic way to see and compare time spent by platform, so we’ve done our best to try to estimate it ourselves, with the hope that the measurement will catch up and allow us to refine those estimates going forward.”

In terms of campaign-level metrics, Magna is “very focused on impressions,” Hughes said. “We’ve converted our local TV buying to impressions as opposed to ratings. We just thought it made a lot more sense. It’s a metric that exists within both digital and TV, so it’s easy to translate. I know that there’s a certain comfort level with GRPs among clients because that’s what’s always been used, but my argument against that has always been that we should be trying to make TV more like digital, and not the other way around. It’s already happening, and it’s inevitable, so we might as well try to get the metrics aligned now.”

Walled Gardens Can Offer Benefits, Too
The industry tends to focus on the downsides of the “walled garden” aspect of Google, Facebook et al — particularly metrics accountability challenges, exemplified by the recent admissions of misreporting by Facebook. But these two executives cautioned against assuming that the private marketplace concept is fundamentally negative.

“We've seen more and more private marketplaces, and this is actually a good thing,” asserted Boehme. “Our company helps propel this by providing the third-party measurements. But beyond that, the reality is that these marketplaces are going to thrive in the digital ecosystem, because they enable new types of advertising that might make sense for, and provide value to, various advertisers.” He cited DirecTV's ability to use satellites to beam down targeted ads that reside on home DVRs, and are inserted in place of default ads, as one example.

“Walled-garden types” of advertising, such as addressable advertising via DirecTV and Dish, can be effective, but they lack the scale that national advertisers want — which is why MVPDs need to come on board, Boehme said. There are also “a lot of technical and engineering solutions that need to be created” to enable connecting dissimilar technology, he noted.

“But the measurement issues follow right on top of that,” he said. “The measurement has to be there, and it has to be transparent and available to both parties, so that it can be judged. We’re trying to provide both syndicated and custom solutions, because that’s what’s driving the marketplace.”

Hughes said that Magna’s strategy regarding walled gardens is summarized by “fewer, bigger, better.” The agency works to “choose what we think are the best partners for our clients, and then double down with them, not spread the money across many partners.”

The Biggest Challenges
What’s today’s biggest measurement challenge?

“Finding a balance between having standards and vetted third-party measurement, but also recognizing that we might not necessarily need a single currency anymore,” said Hughes. “As we want to get more granular and closer to our specific consumer targets, a single metric might not be enough anymore.”

Infrastructure is also a hurdle, he said. “The ability to transact on [enriched data] targets is very limited because of the legacy buy-sell systems, and that’s a challenge.”

Boehme agreed. "There are multiple currencies — we call them ‘baskets of currencies’ — and that’s what the world is going to work with now," he said. "But you have to [convert across these currencies], and that takes time. So there’s a need to manage  [timeliness] expectations.”

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