ARF Audience X Science Day Two: Media Currency Battle Lines Drawn

The focus on media currencies continued on Day Two of the Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF) Audience X Science conference in New York City Wednesday with the divide between Google’s YouTube and the major broadcasters becoming evident.

Madison and Wall analyst Brian Wieser set the stage by underlining the concentration of total ad dollars among the top 20 media owners (70%) and the top 10 digital platform owners (60%).

With the rise of advertising-free premium video, as well as increasing demand from advertisers to demonstrate the value of the media they buy, he offered a surprising conclusion, saying it would be a “mistake” to use a joint industry committee (JIC) to drive down spending on media currency research.

He said research drives better insights and can lead to increases in return-on-marketing investments, concluding, “Spend more to achieve more.”

CBS Chief Research & Analytics Officer Radha Subramanyam offered a similar perspective, noting, “Viewing is under-measured,” especially as the major networks continue to expand into streaming, which may require increased research investment, not less.

“Content is still king,” including when it comes to advertising effectiveness, said NCSolutions’ Brett Mershman, noting that while the creative execution generates around 50% of an ad’s impact, other contributors include: the brand (21%), reach (14%), targeting (11%) and recency or propinquity (5%).

Mershman also emphasized that brand loyalty and brand equity remain fundamental KPIs and are more important than ever.  

Using “viewable impressions” as the basis for cross-media audience measurement currency was raised during a Q&A chat-style presentation between Google Managing Director of Agency & Brand Measurement Analytics Tina Daniels and Google Global Product Lead Nicole Gileadi. 

Gileadi equated audience “exposure measures” with counting “viewable impressions”.”  This is despite the fact that viewable impressions are solely a device measure.

Based on that statement,  Daniels asked the essential question for audience measurement: “Are we pushing the lowest common denominator?”

To which Gileadi replied., “No, MRC pushed that.  So, [viewable impressions] is the right approach.”  

Personally, I believe that misrepresents the MRC’s position and its neutrality on the current alt-currency movement and the MRC’s independence from establishing the basis for any currency measurement other than that it should meet the MRC’s standards in its execution.  

As reported in MediaPost, Google’s YouTube is not currently participating in the U.S. “JIC,” which I call a “M-CCC,” because it really is a multi-currency certification committee, and not a JIC in the way they  operate in the rest of the world.

Notably, Google’s YouTube is also in a contretemps over the basis of measurement with BARB Audiences, the U.K.’s TV/video JIC (an actual one) which uses “fit for TV” as its guiding principle.  

However, the “viewable impressions” plot thickened when various providers of attention metrics shared their measurement approaches and metrics results.  Attention measures are not only highly related to brand campaign outcomes, but also reveal significantly lower counts from the total circulation of content rendered delivered plus much lower counts from the MRC’s subsequent subset of “technically viewable impressions” of content rendered – for all media.  

Lumen Research CEO Mike Follett shared some not-so-surprising findings with National Cinemedia’s Manu Singh.  It showed cinema with the highest attention levels (“viewed”) of any media measured, in some cases, by a country mile.  

So, is an attention metric a far superior and more relevant base for media planning and buying and therefore a currency?  It appears so.  

Coca-Cola is already working closely with Adelaide’s “attention units” to increase the value of media’s yield. 

IPG Mediabrands, Havas Media Group and Dentsu are already embracing attention metrics to make existing media currencies and investments more meaningful and deliver better results for brands.

Would a move to an attention-based currency help or hurt Google’s YouTube?  A good part of that answer clearly involves the quality and appeal of content, the editorial environment, plus the screen size and context.  

Is an attention metric a superior and more relevant basis for media planning and buying, and therefore, a currency?  Media Dynamics’ Ed Papazian and I have been recommending attention as a media currency for years.  It would dramatically reduce the frequency “crabgrass.”

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