An Inconvenient Truth

The third and final day of the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) Audiencexscience Conference Thursday underscored the industry’s incessant confusion over what an audience “impression” actually is, as well as the ongoing characterization of content rendered on screens in households as “watching” or “viewing” by consumers.

If content renders on a screen and no one is around to see it – because they’re walking their dog, making tea, or otherwise not present – did any “viewing” actually take place?

In other words, with no “eyes-on” or “attention-paid,” person-based measurement of a consumer’s actual “viewing” status is unknown.  

Four companies presented “Innovations in Video Measurement.”

If I understand their methodology correctly, each repeatedly made this fundamental error except one: Nielsen.  



While I include myself as one of Nielsen’s greatest critics over the years, the presentation by Nielsen’s Brian Fuhrer was not only insightful, but meaningfully persons- based.  Based on Nielsen’s meter measurement of samples of people, the data at least reflected “likelihood-to-see.”

“Breaking Down the Garden Walls of Streaming vs. Linear,” provided a detailed look at the profiles of “STRIVE,” Nielsen’s new term for the “Streaming Live or Linear Streaming” universe.  It revealed various profiles of this composite streaming universe, notably the relative strength of Netflix.  

Nielsen’s primary findings: “Linear streaming is one of the fastest growing segments of streaming and now accounts for over 11% of total streaming usage on the television.  Linear streamers have a different (younger) profile than traditional delivery platforms.”

Of particular note, Fuhrer revealed Nielsen is indeed working on adding commercial audience measures to its current average minute audience reporting.  

The other three presentations included, LiveRamp’s John-Michael Del Valle’s “Understand the Impact of Your TV Viewing Data Source,” LG Ads’ Justin Fromm’s “ACR Data Uncovers the Inefficiencies of Linear TV Ad Delivery,” TVSquared by Innovid’s Bob Ivins’ “The Cross-Platform Measurement Shift: Content to Ad Exposure.”

Unquestionably, they each offered intriguing approaches to measuring the current complex and fragmented video universe. They posited various attributes and benefits of their respective services.  However, content rendered impressions on a household basis seems to take us back 40 years?  

The keynote of the day focused on generational cohorts of today – and importantly yesterday – and their relative value for brand and ad targeting.

A stimulating point/counterpoint given by King Lear College London Policy Institute’s Bobby Duffy (“The Generation Myth”) and Kantar’s J. Walker Smith (“Generations are Messy but Meaningful”) was augmented by comments from Pernod Ricard’s Mary Beth Jowers.

Per Walker-Smith, “watch out for “bunkum” and “voodoo” in interpretations, and understand that “starting points” are the cornerstone to generational analysis.  

Another important issues raised was the need to understand the differences between actual generational cohorts vs. the effects of age.

In other words, comparing generational cohorts over time, but at the same age is beneficial.

Values, references to categories or brands and the stewarding of those brands typically transcend age.

Finally, they offered a plea not to use generations as targeting shorthand.

Often, macro cultural shifts are not generational changes or differences.  

Steven Millman, SVP, Research and Operations, Dynata, had the last word on targeting.

“The buying power of the 65-plus group is being ignored,” noted Dynata’s Steven Millman, getting the last word on targeting.

I cannot wait. I’m still 64.

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