ARF Rocks Research World with Measurement Mandate

By Charlene Weisler Media Insights Archives

This year’s ARF Audience Measurement Conference, a top research-oriented conference, focused two of its 2 ½ days on the challenges in cross platform measurement. Cross platform continues to be a major initiative of an industry that has historically focused predominantly on television. But the days of linear TV dominating the discussion and the historical buying and selling of spots and dots is just about over.

Manish Bhatia, CRO of comScore, summed it up by saying "video has escaped television." Once consuming "more of a household’s time than a workday," according to Bhatia, the recent declines in overall linear television consumption can be a bit disconcerting … that is until you realize that television viewing is as robust as ever.

“We are not losing viewers,” explained Joan Fitzgerald, Senior Vice President, Television and Cross Media Service, comScore. “They are consuming on different platforms. In fact, multiplatform consumers spend more time with the content on television.”

My take is that while linear TV usage is declining, television usage as a whole -- with all of the on demand and OTT options available -- will be as important as ever. But we will miss opportunities to fully monetize its importance if we cannot agree on industry standards.

The ARF conference presented many different and sometimes overlapping solutions in cross platform measurement. Each touted its own secret sauce of data sets and algorithms. The result is a confusing mix of competing sales positions that can, unless we find ways of merging them, potentially impede a standardize-able cross platform measurement solution.

The stakes are high. According to Gayle Fuguitt, CEO of the ARF, “$100 billion will be poured into analytics measurement in next year.”

Here are some conference highlights:

The Importance of Disconnecting

In a time of increasing connection across a range of devices, keynote speaker Arianna Huffington gave a thought provoking talk about the need to disconnect from them. "We take better care of our devices than we do of ourselves," she explained. "Burnout is the disease of civilization. While we venerate technology we become hyper connected to our devices and become less connected to ourselves. Being tired has become a new normal. We need to be able to disrupt ourselves before we are disrupted."

In her new book, Thrive, Huffington encourages us to move from being necessary to becoming indispensable. And the way we facilitate that is with a scheduled time each night to disconnect and take a predictable time off. "No one can be 24/7 individually,” she said. “We are not machines." Huffington is one of several CEOs who believe that by purposefully disconnecting we can refresh and become much more insightful and creative.

But While We Disconnect, Data Never Sleeps

Huffington’s keynote provided context for a conference attuned to the frenetic collection of data that comes from more and more sources. The collection of data occurs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Where do you start? According to Jeff Chaban, Global Senior Vice President, Business Integration and Analytics, Starcom MediaVest Group, it is by "following the consumer based on viewing habits ... and it will differ by target audience. [We need to] migrate away from a world where we look at consumers as demos and think about the data mix as well as media mix.”

Mike Clarke, Team Lead, Brand Insights and Measurement at Google, is not restricted to the current TV currency. He spoke of Google’s new Brand Lift platform which uses traditional survey techniques with YouTube. Carlos Jose Fonseca, Global Vice President of Knowledge and Insights for Coke, suggested that we “optimize for business results and not proxy measurement like clicks.”

Measuring Mobile is Vital ... But Measured by Whom?

As video content is consumed on different platforms, our need to agree on accredited measurement standards has never been more important. Currently there is no company that has accredited mobile view-ability data, according to Serge Matta, CEO of comScore. "We all know the problem with view-ability,” he explained. “There is a lot at stake. We want to make view-ability the footer not the headline. It is hard to do because digital is so complicated." His solution is to "set upfront expectations, set standards and use quality measurement."

How Do We Get to One Cross Platform Metric?

Ask a number of media executives what is the one platform-connecting metric to use and you will receive a range of answers.

For Joan Fitzgerald, comScore is “working to get one metric across platforms.” The challenges are formidable. “We use a six minute qualifier for television but not for the Internet,” she explained. “Cross media must provide a single metric, unified demography, holistic accounting of all video viewing behavior, scalable measurement of platform and audience and a metric that is reliable to fit the future of advertising.”

Leslie Wood, CRO Nielsen Catalina Solutions, believes that “buyer targets will never be as valuable as demos. Demos are predictable. You know what age you will be next year but will you know if you will be drinking orange soda? We won't negotiate on buyer targets but we will plan on them.”

Artie Bulgrin, Senior Vice President Global Research and Analytics, ESPN, explained that, “the component of time is so essential to this measurement and it is hard to do. Differences in editing rules come up with different results. This is important because time creates impressions.”

It is my hope that at the 2016 Measurement Mandate, the issues of cross platform measurement will largely be solved, but I am not holding my breath in anticipation. Some are more optimistic. Andrea Zapata, Vice President Global Research and Analytics, Vevo said, “Five years ago we were only counting two things -- TV and the computer. We are now stitching together metrics. If we can agree on better instead of perfect we will get better.”

Gayle Fuguitt hopes for “coopertition,” which is a blend of competition and cooperation. I leave it to the ARF to get us there.

For another take on the ARF Audience Measurement Conference read Charlotte Lipman's report.

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