The Ratings Game

Who’s watching what? That’s been the question for advertisers since the dawn of, well, visual advertising.
Nielsen tries to answer that question for television and now the brass ring is to figure it out for online video. That’s where Quantcast comes in.

The measurement firm has made a name for itself tracking audience demographics for Web publishers such as MTV Networks, NBC, Fox Entertainment, BusinessWeek and Time Inc., and is now adding the ability to measure Web video audiences to its tool set.

Quantcast inked deals with Hulu, video ad network Broadband Enterprises, and the Disney-ABC Television Group late last year to track the demographics of their online viewing public, such as age, gender, ethnicity, education level, kids and geography.

“The more targeting made available to firms advertising on these sites, the better, from their point of view,” says Greg Sterling, founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence. “After a point, too much information can become overwhelming to marketers and agencies, but I can’t imagine that the additional data and metrics won’t be welcomed by everyone.”

Especially now. With advertisers slashing budgets, marketers are demanding more data. They want to know how, what, where, when, why and if their online ad buys are working. While Internet advertising is expected to take a hit in 2009, it isn’t likely to decline as much as other media, because the Web is inherently more measurable.

Still, advertisers want to know if the ad money in digital video is well-spent, says Matt Wasserlauf, CEO of Broadband Enterprises, which counts 250 advertisers and 2,200 sites in its ad network.

“This all comes back to what marketers really focus on, which is reaching a target audience that is relevant to their brand,” says Adam Gerber, chief marketing officer for Quantcast. “It’s not that different than how advertisers and content companies have thought about the ad business. The business has always been focused on audience and understanding how those audiences align demographically.”

Quantcast lets content producers organize and sell ad inventory according to audience profiles if they wish, Gerber says. “So if particular companies choose to sell specific ad packages, they will be able to generate audience profiles, or a channel of inventory, or organize a number of programs or videos together by audience profile,” he explains.

“Hulu continually invests in new and innovative ways to serve our advertisers and help them reach the audience that is important to them,” says Jean-Paul Colaco, senior vice president of advertising at Hulu, adding that Quantcast is now part of that tool set for Hulu. Quantcast’s tools can also measure the audience for videos not just on the destination site but also where embedded, such as when Hulu clips are embedded on

Quantcast says it measures audiences using census-level data and combines that information with data from Web publishers and other sources to provide a composite audience view. The audience demographic information is free, but Quantcast expects to make money in the coming months by offering addressable advertising products.
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