Solving The Reach Problem

Seldom does a week go by without there being an article or industry panel talking about the measurement issues facing the U.S. media industry.

These discussions focus on many relevant and important topics, including counting audiences across platforms, the impact of walled gardens, identity graphs and management and the role of measuring beyond exposure to include attention or content/ad synergy.

They focus on media selling and buying, but fail to concentrate on advertisers and what they need to continue to successfully invest in brand building video advertising. While those selling/buying issues are important, we’re missing the forest for the trees.

More specifically, in a highly fragmented marketplace, with traditional inventory and digital/addressable inventory, including multiple walled gardens, how can advertisers allocate their dollars to maximize reach?

Historically, national brand advertisers relied on national TV and broad reach print magazines to achieve their reach goals. But consumer behavioral changes and marketplace dynamics have impacted the national reach potential of both media.



Consider national TV and the combination of:

  • Ratings erosion, causing a depression in the reach curve and reach potential
  • CPM escalation
  • Cord-cutting and the emergence of broadband only homes, homes not reachable through national broadcast and cable TV

We recently analyzed a typical brand schedule and found a monthly TV budget that has only kept pace with overall inflation (not CPM inflation) would achieve at least 13% less reach than it did in 2014.

How important is reach?

The ARF Audience X Science conference in April had an immensely important presentation from Les Binet, from Adam & Eve/DDB in London. Binet analyzes actual campaign results from the IPA Databank to develop clear insights on advertising effectiveness. Two key findings: brand building is achieved by optimizing reach against a broad target, and that reach explains 91% of media effectiveness, all other things being equal, i.e., creative, targeting and ad environment.

The reality is that through all our discussions about measurement, building tools that allow advertisers and agencies to effectively plan to optimize reach across screens and platforms has not been a top priority.

We have limited ability to plan for digital and addressable video complementary to TV; we don’t have a clear view of how to plan spot-based linear TV in tandem with impression-based digital/addressable video. Part of the challenge is data on walled gardens — what reach each can contribute, how the various walled gardens complement linear. 

It’s difficult. We need to link together exposure to spot inventory and impression inventory; include audiences measured with syndicated data and audiences measured through proprietary data stacks.

We need to reflect different targeting tactics that are available on each platform.

Many of the data-driven initiatives taking hold in our industry are aimed at short-term, bottom of the funnel sales lift. Binet’s presentation said short-term activations do not contribute to long-term brand health. Given the contribution that reach makes toward media effectiveness for brand building, our lack of focus is worrisome.

This is one example where our measurement discussions haven’t been broad enough, adjust the aperture and others will appear.

Clients of Nielsen, Comscore and other research vendors have not done a great job of clearly detailing their need. We haven’t been thinking big enough.

Every day, our industry gets more balkanized and consumer behavior makes our current research infrastructure more obsolete. The industry desperately needs a mechanism to ensure the voice of the customer, especially advertisers, is clearly enunciated and guides the product strategy of key research suppliers.

We wanted to validate our concerns with others in the industry. Here are statements from two industry notables:

  • Kate Sirkin, EVP, Global Data Partnerships at Publicis Spine: “We acknowledge tthere are several initiatives happening in this space right now with lots of overlap in purpose, but siloed in development. The biggest challenge everyone has is getting all the media platforms today, and emerging video platforms tomorrow, to be involved both technically and financially.

Agencies have been building tools internally to measure potential reach across platform, but what agencies really need is more granular, consistent log and segment level understanding of impact for attribution solutions.”

  • Louis Jones, EVP, Media & Data at the 4As: "The industry needs to prioritize getting the dimension of measurement more comprehensive in today's environment — and therefore, more representative of consumer consumption dynamics.  Technology and consumer adoption are never going to slow down, our problems of accurately accounting for impressions across platforms and devices only gets more complex.

The current limits of measurement get applied across under-sampled universes, rendering our calculations of reach erroneous across channels. Then these poor estimates contribute not only to poor R/F estimates, but ultimately, inaccurate attribution."

Measurement 2020 (M2020) is a group of industry advisors whose purpose is to leave a better measurement world for the next generation of researchers. The M2020 team includes Howard Shimmel, president, Janus Strategy & Insights, Artie Bulgrin, EVP, Insights & Strategy, MediaScience, Dan Murphy, Principal, Danalitix and Gerard Broussard, Principal, Pre-Meditated Media.

 —with Artie Bulgrin, Dan Murphy and Gerard Broussard


4 comments about "Solving The Reach Problem".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 14, 2019 at 2:03 p.m.

    I agree, Howard, and, in the case of TV we must constantly update the reach tables that planners use in estimating the reach of their proposed TV efforts. I would add, that an even greater issue is determining the actual r&f of the ads as opposed to the TV shows, magazine issues, digital platforms, etc. that we buy into as the so-called "audience" studies vastly overstate the degree to which the ads are actually seen. Hence a TV buy that generates 500GRPs probably delivers only 250GRPs when some realistic indicator of commercial viewing is applied and, obviously, this has a big effect on the r&f calculations---with frequency being more overstated than reach. I hope that your group looks into this important matter as well as the other issues raised.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, June 14, 2019 at 7:31 p.m.

    Ed, we don't use R&F tables here in Australia.   We create a spot-based buy and then 'randomise' where in the programme the spot will run and process the schedule man, many times using the recent elemental data.   You get to see a range of R&F as well as the likely maximum and minimum.

    And on the grander picture that Howard is discussing, no one media can do this.   It needs to be and must be a collective.   That is, the advertisers need to lead the charge and put their money where their mouth is - after all they will be the primary beneficiary.

  3. Jeff Casper from Jeff Casper Media LLC, June 15, 2019 at 11:35 a.m.

    Great article.  I think it's a financial issue.  I think when we say "getting alignment" we mean financial more than anything.  Most all of our trusted media measurement firms made their business measuring one media type at a time.  Now we are asking them to take existing measures (mostly) and stitch them together.  Sometimes I get frustrated and wish for some deep pocketed VC types to see that there is a business here.  Hire some veterans, and start anew taking advantage of the new data streams out there to measure consumers first and media second.  I think if we asked the best minds we have at agencies, advertisers, sellers, and trade bureaus, they'd agree on what you write here.  The level of financial commitment I worry about and wonder where it will come from.  Good stuff.

  4. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics, June 15, 2019 at 1:51 p.m.

    If media companies and their clients were truly interested, they would invest in solutions. Measurement firms are more than happy to take their money. It also requires that media companies encode their content.  Advertisers encode their ads and already get this.  What they don’t get is any insight into competition. Let’s not pretend that there are no solutions that are “good enough” if not perfect. Ed’s comment, of course, is also an important consideration.  This applies to measurement of any medium, even if measured alone. 

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