Media Measurement: One Currency? Multiple? Does It Matter?

In the last century, the advertising community lived in a world where there were TV ratings -- and then measurement of “other media.” All media metrics ultimately led to reach, frequency and GRPs. It was “easy” and understood throughout the industry.

(In all honesty, the currency was understood in that it was the one marketers were taught to look for. They did not necessarily understand the actual relevance or nuance of the metrics or the methodologies that created the metrics. The belief was “more is better”).

In today’s world, we seem to be easing into a model in which each platform has its own set of metrics and methodologies. Variety wrote last month: “For weeks, TV executives have been transfixed by seemingly endless episodes in which their own networks, upstart tech companies, Wall Street heavyweights and Madison Avenue stalwarts all try to figure out how to count media audiences in an era when many of them turn to streaming services to watch their favorite series.”



I can tell you, it's not just “TV executives” who are transfixed, but the whole advertiser world. Agencies, marketers, platforms, all of us are trying to understand what option seem the most promising.

NBCU is betting on “Together,” saying “In this era of new currencies, we need multiple trusted yardsticks that can measure ad campaign impact in its entirety—from emotion to content to conversion, and everything in between.” It is probably one of the most forward-thinking companies at the moment, not only forging a collective of NBCU-accredited measurement partners, but also making this open-source.

Of course the problem is that if you are Disney, Meta, Alphabet or the Chinese government TikTok, this approach is at best a sidebar, or worse, a competitive move that could harm your ability to sell. And so they all have their own measurement suites. Meanwhile Nielsen is fighting for the survival of its longstanding TV measurement currency, relevant for those buying linear or cable TV.

So as an advertiser, how do you measure now, since you are buying across a multitude of walled gardens, each with their own set of metrics? How do you measure the reach of a show that is owned by Hulu, streamed across platforms of Hulu, Amazon and Apple? Some with ads, some without?

The answer is that the industry should come together and figure this out. But that goes against so many principles and protectionist interests that it's more likely significant gun or voter reform will pass through our political system!

Maybe we have to turn to faith leaders for clarity. Here's an appropriate quote from Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “When performance is measured, performance improves.  When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

Thus my recommendation is to work with your agency and collect all relevant-to-you metrics and data points, and try to make sense of them together. Define your objectives really clearly upfront. If you are ultimately selling something online and/or through stores, what metrics can help you get as close as possible to understanding the impact of your investments toward that goal? If you are trying to change a target audience’s perception of your product or service, what metrics matter towards that?

Let me know how it all worked out, will you?

3 comments about "Media Measurement: One Currency? Multiple? Does It Matter?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 24, 2022 at 1:08 p.m.

    Maarten, the likely outcome regarding the national TV "rating wars"---barring a colossal screw-up--- will be that Nielsen's new "big data" service remains the audience guaranteeing and counting "currency" for traditional national TV advertisers in linear and straeaming buys---but that various sellers pick and choose other sources with other metrics to use  selectively as add-on refinements---when this can help them to obtain higher CPMs. So we will  probably wind up with one standard audience currency and lots of different types of add-ons. Which is fine ---perhaps it will stimulate some new thinking.

    The problem you have when you try to expand the TV audience measurement discussion to include outcomes as well as how many eyeballs had an"opportunity" to see a commercial is that outcomes are not the natural province of TV time buyers or sellers. They aren't seen as being responsible for outcomes nor are they well versed in evaluating---let alone measuring---- them.

    The missing links in all of this are the advertiser CMOs and  brand managers who have largely ignored the media buying function and look elsewhere to determine outcomes---pre-testing  brand positioning strategies and commercial executions, monitoring ad awareness, tracking sales, etc. Yet the TV rating services could provide a great deal of advertising impact information---info that is not so readily available---if they incorporated attentiveness measurements. This will only happen if the advertisers step up---with money in their hands---and demand it---- and, I'm sorry to say, I d0n't see this happening. As a result---and sadly---the new national TV rating service as well as the various  add--on "outcome" indicators will continue to function mainly as a TV sellers' sales promotional tool. And "impressions" will be their "currency".

  2. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA), June 27, 2022 at 5:56 p.m.

    Thanks Ed. Somehow I knew you were going to respond ;-) (and that is a good thing - your responses are always thought provoking and relevant).

    I very much agree with your comment on the brand managers. To be honest, most CMO's do care (I have found). Especially "when the going gets tough" like in the current environment. But... they manage the big picture (as they should). Brand managers need to get far more involved, "beyond the impressions". Let's get rid of those anyway!!

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, June 28, 2022 at 7:16 a.m.

    It is important that there is an agreed 'currency' for confidence in the advertising industry.   Other economic sectors, such as monetary exchanges, have a currency system that allows fair trade.

    If I was to offer you $1 or $20 what would you take?   Without a priori information the majority would take the $20.

    But what if I told you the $1 was a US dollar ... worth exactly $1 ... but the $20 was Taiwan New Dollars which are worth $0.67 USD.

    Parity in media currency is crucial.

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