Media Measurement Has A Big Problem: The Deprecation Of Big Data

A funny thing happened on the advertising industry’s way to a Big Data solution for measuring media currencies. It just got a lot smaller.

How much smaller isn’t entirely clear, but even the biggest of Big Data media-measurement solutions -- Nielsen -- says it’s becoming an issue.

"It has been an impact," Nielsen Audience Measurement CEO Karthik Rao acknowledged in a recent interview with MediaPost, confirming that the source of the problem is the same one that has been plaguing other areas of digital media measurement: the deprecation of cookies and digital identity trackers as digital platforms comply with new consumer privacy regulations.

In the case of Nielsen, the biggest source of its Big Data deprecation may also be the most ironic one: Meta.

Meta, of course, has been aggressively lobbying against Apple's implementation of is consumer-privacy framework, because it has materially impacted the ability of advertisers -- both big and small -- to efficiently target consumers with ads on Facebook and Instagram, going so far as to place full-page ads in major national newspapers saying Apple's moves have been hurting small businesses.



As ironic as it may be, Meta has been doing the same thing to Nielsen -- effectively removing all of the data for any ad calls it sees from its massive digital footprint, except for the ones consumers are explicitly registered for.

“When privacy regulations happened, Facebook told Nielsen: ‘We can’t give you that for the rest of the internet. What I can give you is if somebody is on a Meta property – Facebook or Instagram -- we can give you the age and gender," explains George Ivie, CEO and executive director of the Media Rating Council (MRC), which has been looking into the problem as part of the MRC's audit of Nielsen's Big Data solution.

Originally, Ivie said, Meta was passing data to Nielsen any time a user with a Facebook or Instagram cookie showed up on any destination on the internet, but due to its own privacy framework, Meta is no longer doing that. As a result, Ivie says, Nielsen's coverage of Big Data coming from Meta has gone down dramatically.

The same thing is happening as Google and other Big Data providers to Nielsen deprecate cookies and other identity trackers. But even Nielsen's Rao says no one knows the exact impact on Nielsen's Big Data solution.

"I have to assume it has gone down," he confirmed, adding: "But it is very recent."

Asked how Nielsen has been adjusting for the deprecation of Big Data inputs, Rao said it is one of the reasons Nielsen designed a "three-prong" approach consisting of an ongoing ratings panel representative of the U.S. population -- supplemented by data from Big Data partners to infer age and gender demographics, and a proprietary identity panel it uses to model and adjust the hybrid audience estimates it produces.

As the composition of Big Data goes down, the MRC's Ivie said Nielsen's method requires it to rely more on modeling to offset it.

Going forward, Nielsen's Rao says, the solutions to the problem are multivariate -- including the need to create data-sharing partnerships with more Big Data players utilizing cleanrooms and other sophisticated privacy-compliant technologies.

Beyond that, he said, the industry may need to develop some kind of scoring system to understand and track the relative quality of Big Data composition, including data integration "match rates" between partners.

You can read more about Rao's comments to MediaPost here. But as serious as the deprecation of Big Data might be for Nielsen, it has implications for the entire ad industry, which is on the cusp of making the shift from legacy panel-based media measurement services to Big Data ones -- some which don't even include panels to help them benchmark and control for fluctuations in the supply and match rates of Big Data.

Last week, Nielsen surprised the U.S. ad industry by announcing that it no longer planned to offer its panel-plus Big Data solution -- Nielsen One -- as the currency for this year's upfront advertising marketplace and the new TV seasons beginning next fall, and instead will continue to offer its legacy TV ratings panel as the advertising marketplace's official currency.

Nielsen did no comment on whether that decision had anything to do with the recent deprecation of Big Data from its partners, or any potential problems associated with that, but it also recently regained MRC accreditation for its panel service, which theoretically should boost the marketplace's confidence in using it as a trading currency.

Comscore -- which currently is not accredited by the MRC -- followed Nielsen's statement, seconding support for the MRC's accreditation process.

Both Nielsen and Comscore currently are undergoing MRC audits in hopes of receiving accreditation for their Big Data solutions soon.

The MRC's Ivie confirmed they are the only such services that so far have even applied to be audited.

“If I could get one plug in, it would be really nice if these other players like VideoAmp and iSpot and Samba and TVSquared, Innovid and 605 would come forward for an audit," Ivie told MediaPost, adding: "The only one that is vigorously involved with us besides Nielsen is Comscore, and I have to give them credit. And they’re making progress."

While it's not clear exactly why the new media measurement rivals have not applied to be audited by the MRC, Nielsen's Rao noted how rigorous it can be -- estimating that Nielsen's recently panel accreditation required "25,000 auditing hours" to complete.

Moreover, many of the new rivals have already been "certified" by big TV network companies such as NBCUniversal, Paramount Global and WarnerBros. Discovery, and hope to also become certified by a new joint industry committee (JIC) organized by those companies and their OpenAP unit.

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