When Is An Impression Not An Impression, Not An Impression? When Experts Collide

The International Knowledge Exchange was founded last year to promote discussion about developments and innovations in TV/video measurement, new metrics and data collaboration across the media and advertising marketplace.

Its first truly insightful webinar was organized by the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) together with,  egta (Association of TV & Radio Sales Houses), European Association of Communications Agencies (EACA), the WFA (World Federation of Advertisers) and, the IAB Europe (Interactive Advertising Bureau).

The highlight was the significant differences between the positions of the participants: advertisers and their agencies, media sellers and the sole participating measurement organization, U.K. joint industry committee (JIC) BARB Audiences (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board).

The “exchange” underlined the fundamental differences in measurement and currency approaches in Europe – single currency for the medium via a JIC vs. the U.S., which is exploring multiple currencies for TV/video platforms via a MCCC.  (Multiple Currency Certifying Committee).



The differences centered around premium content vs. user-generated and short-form content, media’s social responsibility, and the most basic dimension of all, the foundation of a common currency.  

Kelly Abcarian, executive vice president- measurement and impact at NBCUniversal could surely not have said it better:  “Impressions are different.”

This point was emphasized, albeit inadvertently, by the expert panelists. Many would not agree on the definition of “impressions” – or surely more relevant, “contacts” – that are the basis of the TV currency in France per, Fabrice Mollier, president of Chez Canal+.

In contrast Ryan Stonehouse, director of global YouTube and video solutions at Google, stated, “An impression, is an impression, is an impression.”

What were the “impressions” he was referencing?  “Viewable impressions” as defined by MRC (Media Rating Council) that are solely a screen measure of content rendered.  An invaluable measure of proof-of-play of the creative message, but no actual person’s or audience measure, other than perhaps pirated user data, nor any measure of their eyes- or ears-on, or “contact.”

If there are no eyes or ears on the content and/or advertising, there can be no outcomes!  

“Fit for TV” has been adopted as the benchmark across all TV/video content, which will be measured by BARB.  Its cornerstones are quality, safety and suitability for consumers and advertisers.  BARB also embraces consistency and transparency across all its metrics, which was endorsed by Jon Anselmo, Chief Innovation Officer at Omnicom’s PHD.

BARB Chief Executive Justin Sampson emphasized the importance of content and context to both media and advertisers for any currency and how it is measured.  He also addressed the superficiality of using viewable impressions as a currency, especially for “unfit for TV content,’ that he believes reflect “a race-to-the-bottom in media planning, generating ridiculous frequency, but really low CPMs that do not drive outcomes.” 

Anheuser-Busch InBev Global Senior Marketing Director-Media David Zapata appeared to echo this concern, emphasizing that “reach of the target group is key.”  However, is A-B using audience eyes- /ears–n contact data for its reach estimates?   

As part of a regulated industry vs. largely unregulated social media (Section 230), NBCU’s Abcarian noted the importance of all media’s social responsibility.  With social media under the gun (pun intended) on its damage to democracy and Fox News facing massive lawsuits on truth-in-reporting, this aspect of the media marketplace and its measurement must not be ignored.  

Asked whether Section 230 will be reformed by the U.S. government, UM Worldwide Global Chief Media Officer Joshua Lowcock opined, “It’s not happening” and he also “does not believe it will help.”

While Lowcock is clearly under-awed by the entire U.S. regulatory system, he suspects all sides obtain benefits from the existing content regulation differential.  

The last panel put a great deal of hope in the cross-media measurement [sic] approaches being developed from the WFA “North Star” framework and its “Project Halo” by ISBA (Incorporated Society of British Advertisers), “Project Origin” and the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) in the U.S.  Both will be able to estimate campaign – or at least, TV/video – reach. 

There was limited agreement across the panel on what the common definition and derivation of impressions should be (“viewable”?) vs. what it should be as the basis for reach estimates.  However, what would be the most meaningful definition of media impressions that relate most closely to driving ad impact and relevance for the brand?  Abcarian knows. That could be another collision.

Research The Media’s Richard Marks (former Global CEO of Kantar Media) asked the pivotal question regarding the currency status in the U.S.

“If it’s true that the buyers are driving alt currency, why are they not doing this anywhere else but the U.S.?,” he asked, adding, “But why is Paramount ingesting multiple currencies rather than one? Do you then use the one in which Paramount scores highest in each case? If not, why not just use one? The one you think is better than Nielsen? Why would media buyers tolerate the seller picking and choosing across currencies? [I] just don’t get it.”

3 comments about "When Is An Impression Not An Impression, Not An Impression? When Experts Collide".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 12, 2023 at 10:03 a.m.

    The buyers are not leading the drive for the so-called "alternate currencies", it's the sellers. The way you can tell that this is the case is the sellers' insistance that none of the many proposed "alternative currencies" be made the standard for all or most buys. In other words aside from the real standard---who "watched" the commercial----which is not being dropped---each of the alternative currencies can or can not be used at the seller's discretion. And you can bet that very few sellers will opt for an add-on "currency" if the data works against their selling interests. You need to blow through the smoke and attendant "confusion" to see what's really goingon. And, just for the record, Im don't blame the sellers. Indeed, were I in their shoes, I'd probably be doingthe same thing

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, April 12, 2023 at 6:47 p.m.

    Thanks for the posting Tony.

    I loved your reporting of "An impression, is an impression, is an impression.”   However the 'logic' is far from being impressive, and just reinforces the veracious hunger to get the biggest number.

    To magnify the issue, we should consider things like Multi-View (it's on our new Samsung).   Should we allow (say) four images on the screen to ALL be counted equally as impressions?   If so, with the push of a button we could quadruple the 'audience'.   And why not report on 'frames' which are generally 24 to 30fps.   Imagine how big the 'audience' would be just by changing the definitions.

  3. Richard Marks from Research The Media, April 13, 2023 at 5:39 a.m.

    Good to hear you confirm that Ed. My quoted comment from the event was in response to the speakers from Paramount who, when I asked why their clients would put up with this, claimed that they were actually being led by a buy side desire for multiple currencies. I do know that media agencies and advertisers outside the US are finding this whole 'movement' bewildering.

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