Be Scared, But Don't Be Fooled

In a column I published here one year ago (“When Is A JIC Not A JIC? When It’s A M-CCC!”) I highlighted a comment made by Publicis Media's Sam Armando at Paramount Advertising's “Measurement Now” conference.

Speaking about the burgeoning alternative currency marketplace -- and the new U.S. JIC's role in certifying them -- Armando advised: “Be scared!”

Based on a statement released this week by the deceptively labeled U.S. "JIC," I imagine Armando revising his comment to, “Don’t be fooled!”

The JIC's statement reveals a wide array of red flags beyond the basic ignorance of -- and utter disrespect for -- the concept of JICs that have operated globally for many media for more than 20 years.  

The statement focuses on “transparency around transactional readiness.”

While both valuable concerns these have nothing to do with the quality, validity or relevance of a proposed currency metric.  

“Transactional readiness” refers to the suitability and flexibility with which data can be easily or readily used and applied.  Whether across the various research vendors or by the buyer/planner/seller systems for their required analyses.  

Transparency is only as good as the diligence of ongoing audits of the databases/metrics and the research specification they are supposed to meet.

The absence of the Association of National Advertisers -- or for that matter, any individual advertiser -- in the U.S. JIC's statement is noteworthy and reflects an insightful comment made by retired Ted McConnell (ex-P&G) to my column last year:

“It's beyond me why big advertisers are not fighting for a real JIC. They have been begging for simplicity for years. Agencies benefit from the complexity because a) it makes customers more dependent on them, and b) it creates a need for more people. It's a perfect stalemate."

Advertisers want simplicity, but they want agencies to do the work. Industry associations could play a role, but they are afraid of the legal implications.  The Media Rating Council (MRC) could do something, but the council benefits from complexity.  

In the end, advertisers -- afraid of their own shadow and unwilling to take responsibility -- are inadvertently letting the fox rule the henhouse.  Who loses??  Consumers and advertisers.

Ed Papazian has consistently and continually reminded the industry of the core issue in this currency chaos.  He also commented last year:

“Meanwhile the real question -- which I fear is already decided -- is will commercial attentiveness be part of the standard design for our national TV rating service?  At this point, the answer seems to be, definitely not.  That means that all we will get is "impressions" based on millions of screens-not thousands-but still no information about who-if anybody-was watching.  To fix this we need a real JIC.”

These fundamental points and many of the red flags have been skillfully captured in a recent American Association of Advertising Agencies' Media Measurement Committee report. Under the direction of 4A's Executive Vice President-Media, Tech & Data Ashwini Karandikar, the report concludes  multi-currency national TV demo-based ratings are, "not ready for prime-time."

Sadly, it is apparent that the U.S. JIC has everything to do with permitting multiples-currencies from multiple vendors to continue the “convenient” chaos for the sellers along with the deliberate misinformation and misrepresentation of meaningful media metrics that obfuscate the established general success of authentic JICs in the rest of the world.

Crucial points to consider:

  • The only genuine JIC in the U.S. is Geopath.  It owns the research, data, and currency – eyes-on -- and has also saved the industry millions vs. the various private enterprise alternatives.  

  • OpenAP, a for-profit entity, is owned by some of the largest television/streaming companies, which reflects an unequivocal conflict of interest in managing the “certification” of currencies used by media to sell to advertisers.

  • Measurement of so-called “viewable impressions,” aka content-rendered-counts, is solely a device/surface measure.  Consequently, it has no valid real opportunity-to-see dimension, whatever the MRC suggests.  

  • Without a measure of attention -- or eyes/ears-on content -- a metric significantly more relevant than “viewable impressions," there can be no outcomes.

  • MRC guidelines outline minimum levels of quality acceptable across the research process.  The MRC does not, very wisely, state or even infer whether accredited measured media metrics should or should not be a currency.  

  • The MRC and the U.S. JIC are surely frenemies in this situation.

  • Two fundamental issues underpinning any agreed TV/video currency are data privacy and the use of Big Data, usually biased and needing extensive calibrations, projections or harmonization.  Typically, Big Data used for currency metrics is solely device/surface rendered based and has no persons base. Rigorous media exposure measurement requires a proper, representative panel.  

  • To call this consortium anything other than a multi-currency certification committee (M-CCC) is a surely a con and all the international players involved, especially the major media agencies that all work in a JIC world on so many media in so many countries, know this full well.  

Following my column outlining much of this last year, GAP Research's John Grono and I co-authored a white paper -- “The Ten Cornerstones of JICs & MOCs” -- which was published by MediaPost and a highlights of version 1.05 have just been published by ESOMAR’s Research World including a link to the full paper.  

JICs & MOCs around the world have provided our industry with a single “agreed” upon currency for each medium, country by country, at significantly lower costs and better quality than private enterprises can provide.  

One can only hope that the ANA & 4As can bring common sense, integrity and experience to bringing a genuine TV/long-form video JIC to the US.  Surely, we want the rest of the ad world applauding the U.S., and not laughing at us. 

1 comment about "Be Scared, But Don't Be Fooled".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 28, 2024 at 11:07 a.m.

    As I stated in a recent reply to a post by Dave Morgan, the die is already cast re national TV time selling "currencies" and the "marketplace" ---namely the sellers ---has determined that ---to avoid chaos---there will be a single, standard, "audience" measurement---dubbed the real"currency" and that subject to their sales promotional needs, various sellers can use any of the "JIC's"  "certified"  alternative research suppliers to provide added "currencies"----or refinements--on top of the standard "audience" tallies.

    As to what the "standard audience"  source will supplty, that's simple. It must be a "big data" solution for device usage so every episode of every show can be reported in terms of tune in or "impressions"---down to those reaching only a few thousand households; it must include out-of-home---even though there is no way to determine if anyone is watching when a OOH commercial is detected but it must not include a measure of commercial attentiveness as that would produce much lower numbers. Finally, some indicator of who is watching the program content---though not the  commercials---is desirable.

    What this describes, and not surprisingly, is very close to what Nielsen has developed as its new, "big data" measurement service, now under close scrutiny by all of the major sellers. So, barring some really huge foul up  by Nielsen----which at this point seems unlikely, though possible----Nielsen will in all probability, retain its near total dominance of national TV ratings and  buyers will be using the same kinds of "commercial viewing" estimates as before---only the data will be more "granular" and stable when sliced and diced--- especially when sellers with tiny audiences per episode are involved.

    To be honest,  I can't blame the sellers as they do most of the funding and they have a perfect right to protect what they regard as their interests regarding "audience" measurement. What they are really saying---in effect, is, "We, the sellers, with the buyers more or less going along---will decide what currency will be the standard and what "alternative currencies"---aka additional refinements ---are acceptable". As for the MRC, it's main duty is to determine--if asked---whether any of these "alternative currencies"is doing what it claims to be doing and whether it is folllowing acceptable research practice. But that does not mean that any of the "certified" alternative currencies needs to be accredited by the MRC.

    Is this a disaster for advertisers? Probably not. Rather it's another lost opportunity at a time when the media world is becoming ever more complex and there would have been gold to mine from a really improved national TV rating service which had a bigger sample but also included  a measurement of viewer attention, dwell time, etc. so advertisers finally knew who was watching their ads, how often, etc.

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