“There are two big transformations occurring in the media industry: The consumption of media across a plethora of digital devices and the growth of purchasing and behavioral datasets that enable advertisers to segment customers more precisely with messages,” said Jane Clarke, CEO, Managing Director of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM). “New measurement solutions need to address both trends.”

It is easy to become confused in discussions involving the use of data in advanced advertising or programmatic and across the myriad of proprietary data initiatives being offered by content companies. I have over 38 years of research and data experience and I get confused by who is doing what and how they are doing it. But in all of this industry confusion, there is a way to see through the fog of announcements and claims. My suggestion is to look at data according to areas of purpose.

Data for Currency – The Industry POV

Data for currency includes any industry accepted metric that is used by both buyers and sellers of media. In linear TV, that is currently Nielsen age and gender. The announcement of Nielsen total ratings for cross platform measurement invites questions as to whether or not this will help to evolve the current Nielsen currency. When asked, Megan Clarken, President of Global Product Leadership for Nielsen, said that their latest Total Audience product will “influence and inform” the currency. “There were new rules that were established in 2007 where we now report out to seven days with the exact same ad load,” she explained. “So this is a settlement number. The currency today does not show total audience across platforms but our Total Audience service does.”

So is there any way to get to a generally accepted industry currency for the new suite of advertising opportunities? Dan Aversano, Senior Vice President Ad Innovation and Programmatic Solutions at Turner, is not so sure. “Most data is third party data that is available to everybody,” he said. “From the advertiser and agency viewpoint, it is better to start with data, even if progressing with different solutions. The future is not one currency.”

In the world of cross platform, maybe instead of currency we really mean greater automation. Chris Pizzurro, Head of Product Sales and Marketing for Canoe, spoke from the cable VOD viewpoint. “Years ago we used spreadsheets, and we hooked clients into our systems via integration with companies like Freewheel and Broadway Systems, etc.,” he said. “Now 60% of our business [comes] through such systems. We have the advantage of not having a traditional system for on demand so we can write the rules. We use a little bit of TV rules and a little bit of digital rules.”

Data for Planning – The Agencies’ POV

Partnerships and data fueled initiatives are announced every day to forward thought leadership in cross platform, addressable advertising or programmatic.  "Data influenced TV is here," noted Adam Gaynor, Vice President, Media Sales and Analytics at Dish. “We are in the beginning stage to reach impressions in TV automatically. We can get targeting and ROI. Programmatic adds automation.”

But the essential goal of advertising has not changed. “Although consumer video viewing behaviors have fragmented, an advertiser’s fundamental marketing objectives have not changed: Finding the specific, right audiences, aggregating them at scale and driving them to the desired action,” explained George Musi, Managing Partner, Analytics, Insights and Attribution, Mindshare. “To do this we need to take the different relevant contexts, modes and types of data sources and diverse analytical tools to shorten the time to opportunities.”

How much do individual company data initiatives impact the media sales marketplace in the long term? Data for planning -- that which is used for sales purposes like targeting and segmentation -- is difficult to standardize because if it is based on segments, there would have to be consensus on a standard set of segments. 

Mitch Oscar, Director, Programmatic TV Strategy, USIM, concurred. “Currently, there is no unified source to assist agency buying departments to purchase addressable TV,” he said. “Each platform must be contacted individually to ascertain a match between a marketer's customized universe and the platform's subscriber base. And each platform defines targeting goals differently utilizing a variety of sources.

“Similarly, platforms work with third party data providers to vivisect subscriber attributes to sway buyers to purchase their platform,” he continued. “Marketers are not able to verify the data points presented by the platforms. It is still a blind match between platforms and third party data providers and the resulting segmentation presented to buyers.”

Data for Insights – The Programmers’ POV

As opposed to data for planning and currency, the industry also needs data for insights. Data for insights includes that which informs program and campaign performance beyond the currency. What is my conversion? What is my ROI? What are my viewers doing beyond the first platform or device? This is no easy matter.

According to Dan Aversano at Turner, “It has to be about the data and the analytics -- all of the things that make an ad connect with someone. Ascertaining how many times and measuring the creative, the context, the recency and the platform. Screens are not agnostic. My personal phone is different from the tablet I use for work. We need to measure the interrelations and the impact of how an ad performs on different platforms, devices and conditions.”

The rush for more and more data analytics will escalate as new devices and platforms are developed and the quest for a way to link all type of user hardware and technology continues. Ultimately it is the reliance on silos of data and data solutions that is causing the greatest miscommunication in the marketplace. How to bring it all together into one voice is the critical next step for currency. But we may all want to sing our own tunes when mining data for planning and insight purposes.

Image at top courtesy of Corbis. The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers.