The Virtual Elephant In The Room

An Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) webinar on Tuesday was billed as “A Layman’s Guide to Cross Media Reach & Frequency Measurement Using Virtual IDs,” but you needed some expertise to follow it.

While the ARF is developing a white paper on it, the subject’s cornerstone – utilizing virtual IDs to achieve reach & frequency estimates across TV and digital media platforms – currently is stymied by a “knowledge gap,” remarked Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Executive Vice President Jackson Bazley.

The virtual IDs – or VIDs – are associated with various media devices and and platforms and include virtual profiles of the people they represent.

The VID database is then calibrated to a “representative online panel,” as well as census data.  

The use of VIDs is driven by consumer privacy concerns. And as hairy is it might be, “VID methodologies are still evolving,” observed Sequent Partners Jim Spaeth.



My own takeaway: The use of VIDs exudes doing very precise things with some very imprecise data, notably media consumption data.  

The VID initiative is an evolution of the ANA Cross-Media Measurement Initiative (CMMI), although it is only addressing TV and digital at this time.  

What are the driving forces for advertisers?  Their concerns around waste related to excessive campaign frequency, plus achieving adequate target reach to achieve cost effective brand outcomes.  

The goal is to understand reach and frequency and its relationship to media delivery, media content and environment, creative impact and brand outcomes, which will significantly improve planning and buying.  

Improving consumer experience while respecting their privacy, offers another win-win.  

Critically the ANA insists that CMMI will not serve as a media currency.  

During the webinar, constant references were made to “digital events,” “set-top boxes,” “automatic content recognition (ACR),” and “transactional data” associated with virtual people via their devices.  In other words, all the media “consumption data” is merely circulation or distribution data.

If accredited by the Media Rating Council (MRC), the output would essentially be what the council designates as “viewable impressions,” aka content-rendered counts.

The ad industry’s burgeoning “attention economy” focuses on the relative value of human attention measures vs. viewable impressions, or digital event metrics.

Attention metrics offer truly meaningful insights into content appeal, creative impact, and brand campaign outcomes.  Don’t take my word for it, just ask attention metrics suppliers like Lumen Research, Adelaide or TVision.  

Using content circulation, distribution or “viewable impressions” measures, even if based on accredited methodologies and independently verified, is surely media measurement from 50 years ago.  

Advertisers want to reduce ad campaign waste and drive optimal brand outcomes.  It can be driven by managing relevant quality throughout the entire campaign development process to understand true price/value relationships.  

Without a person’s “eyes/ears-on” – or attention – there can be no outcomes.  As the MRC’s George Ivie opined, “you may not even have a person at the device, but the content could be viewable.”

Use of Big Data, VIDs and digital device-based events are an important piece of the media/campaign measurement puzzle.  However, was there an elephant in the webinar room?  You decide.

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