Online Video Advertising Measures Up

Are there any of us old-timers in the online ad business who have not struggled with (or been beaten down by) the call for accurate measurement of Internet activity, for years now? If you haven't been on at least five "measurement task forces" and been to at least 10 panel discussions on the subject, then you just haven't earned your stripes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those perpetual naysayers. Greg Stuart and the Interactive Advertising Bureau have done wonders and shown tremendous patience on many fronts. It's just humorous to me, as I spearhead online video sales in my new position, that the debate on measuring the latest and greatest form of advertising online has resurrected itself.

The juggernaut called online video advertising is here to stay, and traditional media buyers as well as online buyers have to take a serious look at how much of it to include in their media plans. But there's the rub. Do we measure it like an online ad or like a TV ad? Many advertisers who are still steeped in the offline world just don't trust or understand online metrics, and they need to be assured that they can decipher our language.

Ironically, creating ratings points as a form of online measurement is simpler now than ever. Given the feasibility of taking a video unit online and doing the math (users viewing divided by users in the universe) to come up with rating points, wouldn't buying video advertising be so much simpler if indeed it were measured by GRPs or TRPs?

And by the way, many networks, publishers and vendors now provide the tools that make these measurements possible, with one significant difference: accountability. Unlike offline GRPs, online numbers are not based on sample data. Online numbers are based on actual traffic, and they are even richer when combined with behavioral data and subscriber data.

Audience accountability is a significant advantage for marketers when they consider online video advertising. For instance, advertisers can count actual viewers of video when they are actively watching--not getting up for a snack. The other advantages are the ability to track completion rates and geographic data, frequency cap and targeting based on historical behavior, optimization of spots based on real-time effectiveness--where there's no need to wait for the focus group; also, with companion units, online video advertising can offer immediate user interaction.

The holy grail of holistic media measurement has a lot of buzz, and I welcome the idea of ratings that are universally understood so we can get on with what we do best: articulating the value of our audience and helping marketers achieve their communication goals.

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