Which 'Impressions' Are You Counting?' Were 'Media' Measurement Opportunities Missed?

Did today’s Nielsen-sponsored Virtual Summit on streaming -- “What’s Next for CTV?” -- miss the real opportunity for industry leaders and Nielsen to drive meaningful cross-"media" measurement that is begging for a solution?  

Examining ad-campaign outcomes and their drivers is a fundamental requirement for brands, which Marketing Mix Models address extremely well if the data inputs meet stringent standards.

However, Media’s responsibility is to deliver Eyes-On audiences. It is only after that target audience’s actual exposure to the creative message, together with all the other marketing elements, that outcomes are generated.

Media neither control the creative message, the brand equity at the time of the campaign or the other components of a brand’s marketing efforts.  

So let’s stop using the term "media" in Cross Media Measurement when addressing Outcomes Measurement.



Media is just one of the cornerstones to a campaign’s outcomes, and has been estimated at generally no more than ~33% of the contributing effect for the average campaign.  

"Media" Measurement involves developing a common, independent, unbiased, MRC accredited, audience currency ideally based on known exposure to the content or advertising -- i.e., Eyes-On or Ears On across all media vehicles on every platform. No more. No less.  

This metric reflects Level 3 in the ARF media Model. It is considered the last relatively pure media measure in the ARF’s "Towards Better Media Decisions" Model. Nielsen is well-positioned to achieve this goal at least across all video platforms and devices, as is comScore.  

One panelist -- Adam Gerber, President, Essence Global of GroupM -- stressed the "value of audience reach and incremental reach" when assessing the pricing of CTV platforms versus traditional linear TV platforms and indeed versus any other media platform. He knows only too well that target audience reach can only be estimated across media using a truly common currency. 

He also understands that ARF Level 1 metrics, Level 2 metrics, and Level 3 metrics are incompatible and will not provide the most reliable media reach estimate that Level 3 measurements will drive if executed across all media.  

In case you think that a common media currency typically and loosely described as "impressions" is already available, please remember that content rendered on a screen, or "viewable impressions" -- Level 1 -- is not a media currency (per MRC) and has no audience component.  

"Viewable impressions" -- Level 1 -- are completely different from audience-based OTS or Opportunity-to-See/Hear measurement, Level 2, which are also called “impressions”.

OTS is completely different from actual audience Contacts or Exposure measurement to content or ads -- Level 3. The latter are rarely called "impressions," as this Eyes-On measurement metric underscores the best estimate of a media vehicle’s real value to the advertiser and demand differentiation. 

"Attention" -- Level 4 in the ARF Model -- is driven primarily by the creative message, and therefore involves another and even more powerful driver of eventual outcomes than the "carrier" -- the media.  

The next time someone uses the word "impressions" in discussing media or ad campaigns, I suggest you request its definition and the measurement basis. You may be surprised at how many different answers you will receive!

You will also get some puzzled looks. When in doubt, check with my esteemed colleague Josh Chasin, at VideoAmp. He is a guru on this and fully understands "When is an impression not an impression?"

Ultimately, you will be able to make your industry impression by contributing your voice to driving a meaningful common currency across all media, which will make your media assessments so much easier.

And Adam Gerber will be able to completely rely on and understand the value of various media mixes based on the valid reach estimates he obtains from being able to properly de-duplicate common Eyes/Ears-On audience metrics across platforms.  

2 comments about "Which 'Impressions' Are You Counting?' Were 'Media' Measurement Opportunities Missed?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 13, 2021 at 7:32 a.m.

    Agree, Tony. It's simply unrealistic---and unfair---to saddle the media with the responsibility for convincing consumers that the advertiser's ad message is valid and they should buy  or use the product. From time to time a media seller will go this route---but only after getting a firm read on likely outcomes based on lots of past research from the same source that will conduct the future monitoring of "outcomes"--usually a share of market lift. The resulting "guarantees" almost always fall well within the likely range of outcomes and, as a result, are virtually meaningless---except as an ad sales promotion ploy. If, by chance, there is a shortfall in "delivery" this is handled via make good ads ---which are readily available at no cost to the seller as a rule. Most sellers---sensibly---don't venture into this--to them---very dubious area.

    As for the campaign to convert everything from GRPs to "impressions"---as if doing things the "digital way" represents a major improvement--- this is simply an absurdity as the two mean  the same thing. And what exactly is an "impression, anyway? Is it an inflated projection---actually an assumption---of "average commercial minute viewers" when the commercials were on-screen as we get for national TV? Or is it average quarter hour total audience, including times when the ads are zapped--for local TV? And what about out-of-home TV? If the PPM device "hears" a TV set does that mean that the person wearing or carrying the PPM was "watching? And digital? If a 5- or 15-second video commercial was on-screen for at least two seconds is that a valid "impresssion"? Did the user---even if present---pay any attention to the ad?As for print media or display ads in digital media we simply have no audience measurement of specific ad page audiences.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, May 13, 2021 at 4:14 p.m.

    Bravo Tony.

    Totally concur on the 'impressions' comments.

    Though one thing I found about MMM is that the 'good' models can be data agnostic.   For example, if you had (say) linear TV 'impressions', CTV 'impressions' and digital video 'impressions' and good MMM will analyse and basically be non-comparative of those three types of 'impression' and (if they could speak) would say ... well I don't know what a (say) CTV impressions is, but I know that whewn we have truckloads of them we sell more product.

    But one thing I found in MMMs is that the model will still have 20%-30% 'unknown' variation.   That is, it can explain/forecast around 70% of the variation in sales.

    In many cases that is because the MMM focuses too much on the media component at the expense of 'real world' factors.   A good MMM will have things like unemployment levels, average income data, consumere sentiment, season, weather etc etc.   We did a model for Macca's Happy Meals.   Rainy afternoons were GREAT for sales as the mums and dads were picking up the kids after school, stuck in rainy traffic, didn't want to get home and cook dinner so ... anyone want a Happy Meal?   The Happy Meal ads (and live reads) on drive-time traffic reports on the radio worked a treat on rainy days.

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