TV Needs To Settle On Impression-Based Ratings

The future of media buying is developing reliable, advanced audience data that goes beyond age and sex demos. Buyers want it and the measurement firms are moving toward that goal, but work remains.

While ad measurement has clearly made significant improvements, everybody on the TVB Forward conference’s Thursday panel focused on the topic said there’s a lot more that needs to be done.

For the two agency executives participating, impression-based measurement is clearly key. “I like impressions, because everything else [other media] is measured on impressions,” said Ed Gaffney, managing partner and director of implementation research and marketplace analytics at GroupM North America.

“It’s just, what is an impression? We have to get a more common definition — duration-weighted, average unit — something along those lines.” Then his buyers can look at impact and cost and make rational decisions, he explained.

“We’ve been on impressions for three years for at least some of our clients, and almost all are effective this year,” said Kathy Doyle, EVP, local investment at IPG/Magna. She agreed with Gaffney about a need to come up with a more common definition, and said that her group isn’t “mashing together” impressions from different media that aren’t consistent in their definitions of an impression.

“But for us it’s a starting point…. As ratings keep eroding and eroding and eroding, I don’t know how you can buy [media] off ratings,” Doyle added.

Bryan Wiener, CEO of comScore, said that from his company’s standpoint, “I don’t believe we should be determining what the metric is. I believe we should be facilitating the buyers and sellers [so they can] agree on a currency that they can plan, transact and evaluate.”


There was agreement on that point from Kelly Abcarian, SVP, product leadership at Nielsen. “We’re not here to decide a given metric for reach and frequency,” she said. “I think a lot of work needs to be done to get to that place where buyers and sellers alike can feel very comfortable and confident.”

Both research firm execs said their companies are actively working to bring measurement of individual people, rather than households, to market. Although Wiener was cagey in explaining exactly what comScore has up its sleeve. “We believe that’s a necessary element. We’re doing a lot of things, and the last two years haven’t been the most productive in comScore’s history. That’s an understatement. When we looked at it, one of the challenges was we were doing too many things.”

ComScore is currently focused on not only personal measurement, but providing better data across over-the-top and over the air — “more areas where the customer is disappearing. One of the pressing issues for everyone in this room is how do you capture that audience that’s watching less and less linear TV,” he said. “We need to help break the inertia and do our job to innovate much faster.”

As for Nielsen, “We’ve announced that we’re bringing our Nano meter out to all markets with persons-based direct measurement viewing,” Abcarian said.

With Nano, the people meter is powered from a smart TV’s USB port. Using Bluetooth and WiFi technology, it can communicate with other elements around the house — including wearables, smartphones and Nielsen streaming meters that measure over-the-top (OTT) and broadband content delivery.

Abcarian was sporting a new Portable People Meter, similar in look to an Apple watch, which is a passive wearable that doesn’t require any “button pushing.” It is going into the friends and family testing phase on Monday. The test is expected to last through the end of the year.

Steve Lanzono, TVB president-CEO who moderated the session, asked the two agency executives if they are confident enough in the advanced audience data that goes beyond age and sex demos to transact on it.

“I’m not,” said Doyle.

“We are transacting on it. We’re using it to inform buys,” said Gaffney. “We identify the inventory we want to purchase.” But it doesn’t make sense, from a cost basis, to negotiate with stations on anything other than age and sex demos.

“Until there’s an agreement where you’re going to transact on [advanced audience data] there’s no incentive for a buyer to volunteer that they’re transacting on something where they would pay a higher rate,” Wiener added.

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