Normally, this category recognizes suppliers of media inventory, data or technology, but in a MediaPost first, we’re naming an industry watchdog — the Media Rating Council — for the work it did over the past year developing an industry standard for measuring video advertising exposure in a cross-platform world.
The standard manifested in 2019, but it really was years in development, and is itself part of a longer and broader effort by the MRC that strives to achieve Madison Avenue’s long sought-after Holy Grail: a way to understand and control the real reach and frequency of its advertising campaigns.
“When I joined the MRC [in the year 2000] it became clear to me that we going to be driving towards a cross-media measurement standard,” recalls MRC CEO and Executive Director George Ivie, “ because advertisers would come to me and say they just wanted to answer a simple question: ‘Can you measure the unduplicated reach of my ad and how can I control that frequency?’”
Nineteen years later, Ivie has finally pulled off the first part of that process, creating what effectively is a common denominator of valuing ad impressions across video platforms, and is poised to expand it to other advertising formats such as static display, audio, etc.
The process hasn’t been without controversy, as both the buy- and the sell-sides of the business had concerns about creating a simple standard for an ad impression that could shift the economic value of the digital advertising marketplace.
But Ivie says creating a “level playing field with these initial standards” was fundamental to the next phases of the MRC’s mission, which will also include creating industry standards for higher order impacts of advertising, also known as “outcomes.”
Over the past decade a litany of research, analytics and data processing companies have developed a multitude of proprietary “attribution models,” all espousing to tell advertisers and agencies what effect their ad exposures had on driving outcomes, such as sales, conversions, brand lift, etc.
Ivie says the MRC still is in the early stages of setting those standards, but it has a blueprint for executing it and it will ultimately depend on the members of the MRC’s board and operating committees to determine it.
The mission might seem like a big leap for the council, which was born out of Congressional hearings on TV ratings scandals in the 1960s, and was created as part of a consent decree with the Justice Department to serve as an independent media ratings watchdog, conducting audits of media researchers and either accrediting their services or not.
But Ivie says the expansion into setting industry standards for a rapidly evolving media marketplace isn’t just essential, it’s actually in the roots of why the MRC was created in the first place.
“The truth is it already began to evolve under my predecessor, [former MRC Executive Director] Dick Weinstein,” says Ivie, who was the chief auditor at Ernst & Young working with the MRC before he joined.
“I worked with Dick extensively before I became executive director, and during that time Dick decided to go back and revisit all of our heritage information,”
Ivie recalls, adding, “What actually came out of the Congressional hearings? What what actually is the mission of the MRC? And if you go back and you look at the mission of the MRC that came out
of the Harris Committee hearings, you’ll see that our mission is to secure for the media industry and related users measurement services that are valid reliable.”