The Debate About Measuring What We Watch

So the Advertising Research Foundation Audience x Science 2023 conference ended, and was immediately followed the next day by OpenAP’s briefing session for the joint industry committee that is attempting to “establish common standards for cross-platform measurement to enable more innovation and more competition of multiple currencies.”

It is doing so with many big partners playing along, because “It is more important to be in the tent than to not be in the tent,” per Bharad Ramesh, executive director, research & investment analytics for GroupM.

Some notable players have decided not to be in the tent, such as Alphabet, Meta, Apple and Disney. Google explained its current absence, and most likely the absence of most other digital platforms, since its legal department was having sleepless nights over a joint industry effort that would need Alphabet data, and that would lead, so it says, to major privacy concerns.

This is a bit of a cop-out. I'm sure the concern is legitimate -- but if you can “invent” BARD, you can find a way to address the technicalities of data-sharing. It probably has more to do with the fact that having a walled garden with little to no option to compare your results vs other walled garden players is very much in your best interest. Having said that, Google seemed open to continue the discussion, but limited it to YouTube. Perhaps the door is not yet fully closed.



Nielsen also very publicly said “no” to the JIC, but as a potential supplier. The company did so the week before the ARF conference. However, in a fireside chat (can we please stop using this nonsensical term? These one-on-one conversations during conferences are never a chat, and never involve a fireplace!), Pete Doe, chief research officer, Nielsen, said both that “I am the research guy, so not the right person to comment” --  but also, “we continue the conversation, and as long as we can align on an MRC-accredited approach, we are open to discuss.” Comscore has aligned itself with Nielsen’s position. So, another door that was not fully slammed shut.

I come from Europe, where JICs are everywhere and have been for decades. They are certainly not flawless, but much preferred over the mess we currently have here in the U.S.

But the JIC goings-on were not the most important topic during the ARF Conference. There were many notable studies and findings, with varying degrees of applicability to our day-to-day lives as marketers.  To me, the most shocking presentation came courtesy of Brian Wieser, who recently launched his Madison and Wall consultancy.

He explained that “pay TV penetration continues to fall at a dramatic pace and is poised to decline below 50% in the United States probably towards the end of next year.  This is leading to a severe erosion of the potential for traditional television to satisfy reach-based media goals within any reasonable range of cost (i.e., a marketer can buy the first or second decile of reach in a campaign relatively inexpensively, but each percentage point of reach becomes dramatically more expensive, rising at a much faster rate than CPM inflation).”

This is a major concern if your current media mix relies heavily on any form of “TV” (linear, cable, digital streamers). TV has always maintained its story line that, in the end, advertisers need TV and TV delivers for advertisers. That truth -- as for so many others -- no longer seems all that certain now.

2 comments about "The Debate About Measuring What We Watch".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 28, 2023 at 3:02 p.m.

    Maarten, Just because "pay TV" drops to 50% of U.S. household coverage that does not define all of "linear TV's reach potential. Add to that 50% another 15% or more to account for homes that get over-the-air signals  from broadcast TV and you are still able to work with a monthly reach potential  of about 65%. To be fair, this is heavily skewed towards older homes where the monthly reach potential is closer to 80%---or even higher--- while among younger adults it's lower than the average---say about 50-55%.  In addition any advertiser who wishes to optimize reach ---especially among 30 somethings or 40 somethings---should be using a fair dose of FAST or AVOD streaming service buys. So the much cited  reach "problem" only manifests itself when an advertiser persists in thinking that "TV" means only "linear TV" or, worse, just "pay TV".  Wrong---"TV's" reach and frequency is now delivered by a combination of platforms, not just the old one. They are all "TV".

  2. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics replied, April 28, 2023 at 3:51 p.m.

    100% correct Ed. Fragmentation has now made reach goals difficult and expensive to maintain but they nonetheless must be accomplished.  And making sure the data used for reach calculations is clean and clear ever more important. Hopefully the penchant of certain providers to provide reach estimates exceeding 100% of the population will be rectified and marketers not provided estimates that include a large number of fake impressions. This will be a long and difficult path, and much value will be lost to fraudsters and less diligent buyers of media advertising. 

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