Commentary

Why Audience Measurement Change Is So Difficult

CANNES, FRANCE--There is an uprising bubbling from the French Riviera as media buyers say the industry has finally reached a tipping point in demands for improved techniques for measuring audiences for video content across different channels.

Omnicom Media Group (OMG) went "office to office and exposed every single client team" to newer solutions to compete against legacy providers comScore and Nielsen, said Jonathan Steuer, chief research officer, Omnicom Media Group, during a panel discussion Cannes on Wednesday.  "We said to them if they don't start buying TV in a different way, you will have challenges."

At last count, 31 OMG clients have expressed interest in these newer cross-measurement services and 13 are currently moving forward to implement them, says Steuer. "Now, clients are starting to bake us into their strategy. You can spend less or spend more doing it the same way."

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“OMG has clients telling us they know viewers are watching TV in different ways and we need to catch up,”says Steuer.

To assist in the catch-up effort, OMG hired a high-level network executive to join its media-planning team. Networks, in fact, have always been ahead of this conversation. ESPN, for one, has been at the forefront in tracking audiences across multiple screens.

Last week a coalition of agencies -- IPG/MAGNA, Publicis Media, OMG, GroupM, Dentsu Aegis Network, Havas, and Horizon Media -- joined to form a new agency advisory committee under Project OAR.

This team follows the organization's launch in March 2019 by mostly network-affiliated founding members: DisneyMedia Networks, Comcast’s FreeWheel and NBCUniversal, Discovery, CBS, AT&T’s Xandr and WarnerMedia’s Turner, Hearst Television and AMC Networks. Fox joined OAR last week.

Both networks and media agencies express frustration over the slow unification of measurement methodologies among the many measurement startups. "The data plumbing isn't standardized," says Steuer.

The seller networks each have their own audience-based products that play only “somewhat nicely together,” he says. The industry needs a tool measuring across all of the networks and their platforms, he added.

Adoption is also impacted by category. CPG, for example, is more challenging because getting full-market purchase data is tricky and not worth the expense, says Steuer.

But for the most part, advanced measurement works everywhere, he believes. McDonald's is leaning toward it in a big way, says Steuer. You won't be able to customize your cheeseburger based on viewing habits, but the restaurant chain wants insights to reach different customers throughout the day.

"It is super frustrating," says Jodie McAfee, senior vice president sales and marketing at Vizio's Inscape, during a conversation after the panel. He said Nielsen and comScore continue to distribute flawed and outdated data points. "Everyone knows change needs to happen, but it isn't happening fast enough," he says.

Nielsen and comScore are helping to increase the "fatigue" thanks to internal missteps.

Nielsen, for its part, was locked in a "contractual impasse" with CBS over rising rates in January, while comScore has experienced turmoil among its executive ranks. Still, most of the frustration is focused on Nielsen, particularly since 60% of media spend remains committed to this company. "Change is hard and expensive," says McAfee.

5 comments about "Why Audience Measurement Change Is So Difficult".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 20, 2019 at 7:24 a.m.

    Larissa, Nielsen and CBS disagreeig about the former's fees for supplying ratings---until they came to an agreement---is hardly an example of a "misstep" on Nielsen's part. This type of thing happens all the time---it's just part of the negotiating process.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 20, 2019 at 7:45 a.m.

    My typing has improved 100% since I began posting on MP but, once again, I have stumbled. Apologies. It should be "disagreeing" not "disagreeig". Sigh!

  3. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics, June 20, 2019 at 2:27 p.m.

    I am waiting for Mr Steuer to provide a clear ask. Another statement of complaint without suggestion is old news. What, exactly, does he want to see and pay for from measurement companies?  Ads can be followed across platforms for sources that choose to encode. Advertisers who place ads on sources that don’t allow coding create their own problem. 

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 20, 2019 at 5:04 p.m.

    Jack, Jonathan has been leading the chage in trying to educate clients about new ways that "TV" content is being consumed---even though at this point the actual amount of the digital add-on audience is still very small for most shows. It will grow and, of course, we must now contend with ads being  sold and bought on streaming media.

    The problem regarding digital media exposures is a difficult one as we are asking for data that tells us whether a user actually "watched" an ad when all we really know---even when we get "100% viewability"---- is that it was on the user's screen for its duration. Since we are operating with very inflated "commercial minute audiences" for "linear TV" I doubt that Jonathan or, for that matter, anyone, really has a handle on how to find a truly comparable cross platform measurement. In fact, we are probably asking for too much  too soon and should start, instead, by cleaning up our act in the still huge "linear TV" arena by getting a truer picture of commercial "viewing".That fixed, we can move on to digital.

  5. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics replied, June 20, 2019 at 5:58 p.m.

    I am sympathetic to your concern for better measures of exposure and you have been a consistent voice on this subject for a long long time.  Perhaps the reason is that many fine minds, including you and the venerable Erwin Ephron, haven’t identified a scalable process for doing so on the fly. Until we do, we use what we have. In the meantime, I wish those who complain about a lack of progress put resources against the task. While at Turner we put millions against cross platform measures that resulted in viable, useful and scalable solutions that generated cross platform revenue and insights at CNN and for Turner Sports including NCAAs (credit for the sports initiative goes to the brilliant Jay Leon).  Nielsen built it. It exists and can be deployed on channels that allow encoded content. But sometimes it is easier to sell without cross platform numbers and that will likeLy remain so until linear TV CPMs rise to the level of digital video CPM and digital video CPMs will remain higher so long as supply falls well short of demand. Supply and demand have always driven prices for TV, online, and every other product in a free marketplace. 

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