Commentary

Organizing The Clutter

In the morning Joe Consumer checks GMail, clicks on an ad and registers for a brand newsletter. Ad Impression, click, and registration are recorded in an Internet-specific reporting system. While online, Joe watches the "Today Show." He goes onto a Web site after seeing a call to action from the show. His TV viewing is not recorded or reported. His Web activity is.

As his day continues, more of Joe's media usage is tracked. Joe surfs the Web, sees in-store video, uses his cell phone to download messaging advertised on a Bluetooth-enabled digital video billboard, and orders a movie from the MSO VOD offering. All these impressions and interactions are recorded.

But that's only half of Joe's media usage. He also watches CNBC in his office during lunch. He listens to news on the radio on his way home. He watches local sports on television in the evening. None of this is recorded, none of it is tracked in a meaningful way -- useful data lost.

Nielsen and comScore's recent introduction of new forms of Web site measurement to their products has spurred many in advertising and marketing to debate just how to measure Web sites, their mostly impression-based business models and consumer engagement. There's no doubt the new standard measurements are steps in the right direction for Web properties -- but why is this the only media channel seeing this type of ongoing progress? Establishing measurements for true, collective brand performance and marketing/advertising effectiveness is something we have all been navigating toward for many years. Most people in the media industry are talking about it. Few are actually doing anything about it, especially in the channels that have the highest dollar volume.

Blazing the new trail to real brand insights and metrics requires as much distribution-level tactical plan effectiveness data as possible. Unfortunately, this multichannel data is currently culled from disparate systems that all work on different planning, buying, sales models and content broadcast vs. content serving and/or streaming platforms. While many in the marketing, advertising and communications industries have identified the need to pull together our fundamental principles, operations and organizations and collectively look through the proverbial channel-agnostic, consumer-centric lens, there still remains the necessity to establish and literally build this digital standard platform from which we can plan, buy, distribute, measure and synthesize campaign data. Couple this with campaign-specific sales and product/service satisfaction data and we are approaching Holy Grail territory.

Next year could be the first purely digital television marketplace (or upfront), if the cessation of the analog signal in accordance with the FCC DTV Act remains intact. No more analog signal after February 2009: that doesn't leave much time to build, test and scale this shared standard platform, does it?

Overall distribution is at the heart of the matter. If we can tackle measured distribution, then the other pieces will fall into place. Marketers and advertisers need to be able to "plug into" their television investments the same way they "plug into" their other digital investments. A standardized, multichannel digital distribution platform for television and the various digital channels (Web, wireless, gaming, digital OOH, GPS, digital in-store, VOD, radio, etc) will allow for true brand message sequencing fostering a consumer dialogue in which advertisers interrupt less and listen more. Brands should be able to actively enhance the overall consumer experience in all channels responsibly employing behavioral, databasing and (re)targeting technologies with far greater scale and granularity.

If we all seem to understand the precision with which we can customize, distribute and measure on a digital platform, how come none of the media conglomerates has actually built and introduced a standard digital distribution platform by now? We have seen countless Web sites, extensions and wireless plays introduced by the networks. Some of the properties have been good; others, not so great.

These Web-based properties are hardly a reasonable solution to the underlying digital question that needs to be answered for these media conglomerates and their brand partners from a dollar-volume and business-model standpoint. If the ad-serving companies, technology providers, measurement companies, media holding companies, broadcast and cable MSOs will not build, test and introduce these shared platforms, within which we all need to truly integrate, then it should be up to their partners to do so -- specifically, the marketers and agency holding companies. After all, the partners may have as much or more to gain by doing so. Right, Joe?

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