In a highly fragmented media world, where the consumer is at the cutting edge of media consumption, media measurement and attribution can be a moving target. How does the industry keep up? Several industry experts deconstructed this dilemma at the Data Conference, part of New York City Television Week.
What Is the Solution?
In searching for the solution to cross-platform media measurement, the panel essentially described the problems in even reaching a solution. Paul LeFort, a senior vice president at Nielsen, noted, "No one solution will work in the long-term." But he believes that comparable metrics matter. "The interesting push in the past few months is the impressions-based approach," he stated. "Impressions remove friction in the process. If we only use ratings, then we lose portions of our audience."
For Radha Subramanyam, chief research and analytics officer at CBS, a hybrid approach is the best way to go, with "a combination of panel and other data." But, she noted, there is still the issue of walled gardens. "What do you do with all of that data that sits outside?" she asked. "We need a holistic view because the market doesn't care about walls or silos of data. Advertisers want the full picture."
The barrier to a holistic solution is a not technical one, Subramanyam added. "It is will or leadership. We need to think bigger and have more cooperation. We need a fluid ecosystem. The tech [is] easy but getting it done [is] not."
What About Panels?
Frank Comerford, president of NBC Local Media Commercial Operations, and chief revenue officer and president, commercial operations, for NBCU Local Media, listed a range of challenges. "Is a small panel accurately reflecting the audience we have?" he asked. "Is a big data set reflecting our audience?" Comerford explained that if viewers aren't in the right places in the data set, it will produce the wrong information. In addition, he said, "with a big data sample, there are walled gardens that are marking their own homework."
Panels have both advantages and shortcomings. "Panels provide a fundamental source of truth," Subramanyam noted. "[A panel] allows customers and clients to understand the households from which it is derived. It is also a source of diversity measurement and ensures an exact or accurate representation of those audiences. I believe in the fundamental need of [panels] to give us those things. But we also need the scale and stability of big data sets."
"Panels can't strive for behavioral, but can strive for the demographic," Comerford added.
Who Leads the Charge?
When it comes to deciding the most effective measurement and metric, who has the last word?
Nielsen's LeFort believes that it is, ultimately, up to the advertiser — "if the advertiser is happy about what they have spent to get their results." The good news, he explained, is "TV and digital are not as far apart as we pretend it is." They are complementary. "It is not TV versus digital."
Subramanyam concurred, "We are here to service the marketer and we need a healthy, transparent market. There are lots of initiatives at work and a combination of them will lead to a new standard." But, she added, "consensus in standardization across media is essential. And people have to get comfortable in getting their data out there."
Experimentation Is Essential
Measurement solutions should be a part of tracking attribution and there is a lot of experimentation going on in this area. "[At CBS,] we start by experimenting on ourselves and then offer the solutions to our marketers," Subramanyam noted. "Attribution, specifically in digital, is still in the early stages. It tends to be versions of last click. But there are lots of experiments."
For NBC's Comerford, the local markets try a range of different attribution experiments with a "small sample on the buy in the local market. We track and see. We can prove that an ad that runs on TV is effective and multiplies the effect of local advertising. The last click did not necessarily get the sale, but it might be the execution of the sale. We have to see what led to that."
The overall consensus is that the industry is now working together to find solutions. "The good news is that we are all talking," Subramanyam said. All this results in greater cooperation and a "robust and positive discussion."