Pursuing an improved alignment of cross-platform audience metrics

Joe Abruzzo

Joe Abruzzo

By Joe Abruzzo, EVP, Chief Exploration Officer, Havas Media North America

A recent survey conducted by the Council for Research Excellence (CRE) found that the “Alignment of Cross-Platform Metrics” is a top priority among a large majority of advertisers, agencies, sellers, industry organizations and thought leaders interviewed.

While everyone seems to be in agreement that alignment is a top priority, differences in measurement methodology stand in the way of an easy solution. These differences include self-reported usage versus passive measurement; opportunities-to-see vs. served impressions; exposure during a time interval (e.g. the average minute) versus passing a 2-second minimum threshold; measurement of persons-based media behavior rather than what is going on in the household; and rating points versus impressions.

On the surface, these differences seem simple to fix. The major stumbling blocks are differences in technology and differences in the currencies used in buying and selling audiences.

Industry Consensus

Consensus is building among industry organizations such as the Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Media Ratings Council around characteristics of the ideal cross-platform audience measurement:

  1. Measurement of persons rather than household level media exposure
  2. Live and time-shifted media exposure
  3. Content and commercial audience measurement
  4. Measurement based on opportunities-to-see (rather than served impressions)
  5. Measurement that is passive (rather than self-reported)

Solutions Have Been Offered

An obvious solution to the alignment of cross-platform metrics problem would be a single measurement system that would simultaneously capture exposures across all media platforms.

Symphony Advanced Media (SAM) is an example of a single-source solution. Symphony measures cross-platform behavior through a single-source panel, utilizing Smartphone and PC technology to measure TV, mobile, social and PC. Both content and commercial audiences are measured. Measurement is at the persons-level, based on opportunity-to-see. And data collection is entirely passive – no self-reporting. The Symphony Advanced Media system is proof that single-source measurement is possible.

Single-source measurement has challenges, however. One challenge faced by single-source measurement systems is scalability, i.e. building a large enough panel that is capable of producing high-quality estimates of media behaviors, across a broad range of audience segments, at a reasonable cost. A second challenge is the measurements themselves – – which may not be recognized as currencies for the buying and selling of advertising audiences.

Other proposed approaches include data integration methods such as data fusion. Nielsen markets several data fusions. ComScore’s Project Blueprint is a hybrid that includes both single-source elements and data fusion.

A current example of data fusion would be Project Blueprint, a collaboration of ESPN and comScore. This is a five-platform measurement initiative that was designed to measure media consumption across radio, television, PCs, smartphones and tablets. Blueprint can provide highly detailed estimates of reach build-up by platform, measuring each platform’s contribution to both unique and duplicated reach.

An important next step would be to examine the value that these and other proposed cross-platform measurement approaches provide, examine the methodologies and outputs, determine how these approaches can be improved and scaled, and determine who should bring them to market.

Collaboration is required

The industry isn’t sitting still in trying to find a solution to the alignment of cross-platform metrics problem. Through initiatives like Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS), a cross-industry initiative founded by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Media Rating Council (MRC), steps are being taken to improve audience measurement. Viewability standards for digital display ads and digital video ads have emerged out of 3MS.

The Measurement Mandate Committee, a collaboration of the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), the ANA, 4A’s, IAB, MRC and CIMM, is also working on solutions for an improved alignment of cross-platform metrics.

But further progress is needed. The problem needs to be attacked on multiple fronts – advertisers, agencies, vendors, industry committees and the research community. Beyond the technology of cross-platform media measurement will be the need for consensus in transitioning to alternative currency metrics. There are bound to be compromises along the way. What is possible? What is affordable? What is most practical for the marketplace?

The future benefits of achieving an improved alignment of cross-platform metrics are clear. An improved understanding of how individual media impressions combine to drive business outcomes. Smarter media planning. An improved ability to transact and optimize buys across platforms. And ultimately, more accountable media investment.

For over 30 years, Joe Abruzzo has been involved in the use of research and analytics to improve marketing and media decision-making. In addition to his work with Havas Media, he also chairs the Media Consumption and Engagement Committee within the Council for Research Excellence, and has been recognized as an Adweek Research All Star and an Advertising Age Media Maven.

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words and in targeted Q&As, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at RDawn (@) cynopsis.com

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