Measurement Under the Microscope
Following up on April’s popular webinar conversations, the PDMI continues a deep dive into one of the industry’s hottest topics.
By Thomas Haire
When the Media Ratings Council officially stripped Nielsen of its TV ratings accreditation last September, the move set off a firestorm in marketing circles. An already expanding ad tech and audience measurement universe seemed to go into overdrive, as media outlets, media agencies, and the clients they serve sought quick and definitive currency solutions.
Still, more than nine months later, such a solution for all marketers seems far off. The leadership of some major network groups — such as PDMI member NBCUniversal, which made a currency deal with iSpot.tv (parent of PDMI member DRMetrix) — and the expansion of new technologies have helped marketers find new avenues to measure audience and performance. But what was once a space with one clear leader is now as fragmented and cluttered as can be.
With this in mind, the PDMI’s Brand Response Council set out to find some answers about these frictions in the audience measurement space during a two-episode run of its Take 20 webinar series in April. The first episode, on April 13, featured attribution experts Shira Witelson of RSLT and Meghan Glenn of Flowcode, with the second session, on April 27, welcoming ad tech and measurement leaders Cody Tunney of Yangaroo and Jessica Hogue of Innovid. The webinars were viewed by two of the PDMI’s three biggest online audiences in 2022 — the topic clearly a hot button for all in performance marketing.
That made the choice for this issue’s cover story clear — let’s further the conversation and insights. We welcome back both Glenn and Tunney — each representing PDMI member companies — for more feedback on the topic, while also welcoming two other PDMI member company leaders: LeadsRx’s AJ Brown and DRMetrix’s Joseph Gray. Read on to hear their feedback — and in some cases, their pitches — for how the performance and direct-to-consumer marketing industry can solve these pressing issues.
The fragmentation of media and measurement may result in siloed and specialized measurements: a best-in-breed OTT measurement platform, another for linear, and yet another for CTV. What is currently available, and what are key trends for the future?
AJ Brown, co-founder and CEO, LeadsRx: As the OTT (over-the-top) and CTV (connected TV) markets continue to explode, companies like JamLoop and Ideal OTT are providing platforms to help customers improve marketing performance of advertising on streaming services — and they are using data and insights tools such as multi-touch attribution to impartially measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns. Both companies are poised to dominate with their OTT and CTV demand-side advertising buying platforms.
In a recent press release, Leif Welch, JamLoop founder and CEO, said, "OTT and CTV advertising truly combines the best of digital and traditional linear TV advertising. It has digital’s granular audience targeting and measurement capabilities, combined with a big-screen TV, lean-back viewing experience inside brand-safe content. Now that advertisers recognize that OTT/CTV is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but rather a necessity to reach cord-cutting consumers, they need to understand the impact on their broader marketing mix."
Meghan Glenn, sales director, media, Flowcode: Having spent my career in local media, I can confidently say that Flowcode is building the only universal, best-in-class measurement tool across all of these delivery methods. Media consumption isn’t siloed; the most important detail is the user journey across these screens; and the ultimate goal is conversion. With Flowcode placed in content and experiences across screens, brands can see real, intentional, humaninteraction with their messaging in real-time. This is both attribution and proof of performance, but sophisticated QR marketers are going to be able to determine interest and intent at all stages of the funnel while optimizing and serving content accordingly.
It isn’t linear vs. OTT vs. CTV anymore. It’s just on-demand content. Reporting will be de-siloed and cross-platform, and all TV is performance media.
Which emerging measurement businesses are worth testing and trying based on your experience?
Joseph Gray, founder, DRMetrix: Since iSpot.tv acquired DRMetrix last October, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about this facet of the business. In the early evolution of this space, probabilistic models — often referred to as "spike analysis" — were developed to try to attribute digital activity to TV advertising. I’ve been outspoken on this topic for years, having covered it in each of DRMetrix’s past yearly industry studies. Our latest industry study is freely available to download from the main menu of our website and includes a section dedicated to TV attribution. Each year, we use TV occurrence measurement data to expose serious problems with the probabilistic model. For those advertisers using a vanity call-to-action, there is hope as newer technologies, such as smart TVs, have created a more viable approach to media measurement and attribution. To differentiate this type of model from probabilistic, it is often referred to as deterministic.
iSpot is one of the leading companies in the space that uses a deterministic approach to TV attribution and measurement across linear, OTT, and CTV. During the past few months, iSpot.tv has become a front runner as NBCU, and many others, have embraced its best-in-breed measurement platform. Last year, iSpot.tv began integrating data from more than 20 million additional smart TVs in a deal with LG Ad Solutions. This is in addition to the existing opt-in panel of nearly 40 million connected TVs from Vizio Inscape. This represents the largest footprint of licensed smart TV data in the TV measurement industry. With data from 12 million set-top boxes also under license, iSpot’s total TV device footprint is now over 50 million.
Glenn: QR, of course! There is no other measurement tool that is based exclusively on real human interactions. Flowcode is not looking at a supposed site traffic list or basing performance off Nielsen ratings. The technology gives publishers, brands, and content creators the ability to measure verified audience response as it’s happening.
What are agencies and brands looking for when it comes to an audience measurement solution?
Brown: Agencies know the power of marketing measurement tools, specifically multi-touch attribution and customer journey analytics. They are methods of showing the brands they represent how their advertising is working — and showing them what is not working. The latter can be extremely helpful if a client is hellbent on sticking to an advertising medium they swear still works (because it always has, they assume) or that a particular creative they prefer has to keep running because, well, they like it.
With an unbiased view of all touchpoints in a marketing campaign, it not only opens the eyes of the advertisers, but sometimes the agencies, as well. If an agency can determine that the radio ad featuring the company founder is not performing as well as the on-air personality’s read of the company’s ad, it’s time for a tough conversation with the marketing team and the founder. The data doesn’t lie, and it doesn’t favor an ad, a medium, or a campaign based on any preconceived notion. It just says, "These touchpoints in the customer journey are working well together; and this touchpoint or two is not contributing value on your path to improved return-on-ad-spend (ROAS)."
We at LeadsRx are always excited when an agency, or better yet a brand they represent, has that "ah-ha" moment when they realize they have the data and insights to improve marketing performance.
Glenn: The simple answer is verified ROI. It isn’t about mass distribution anymore, but rather that there is a measurable result behind every impression served. Flowcode not only enables conversion at the point of message delivery, but it also provides audience insights that can be used to drastically amp up efficiency in everything from messaging to delivery method.
Gray: Quite frankly, a solution that works. With a panel of more than 50 million, iSpot.tv can directly tie household-level ad exposures to household digital activity. If a panel household was exposed to a TV ad via linear, CTV, or OTT, we can often measure the results deterministically by tracking the anonymized household IP address with the household digital activity, which includes visiting a website, placing an order, etc. A panel of this size and scale will answer a myriad of critical questions, allowing for high levels of media optimization, measurement of household saturation, as well as reach, frequency, and impressions that are all deterministically measured.
If you could wave a magic wand, what type of audience measurement service would you create?
Glenn: I am lucky enough to be working with it already! In the future, we will see increased applications of things like AR/VR to create bespoke content experiences that deepen the viewer engagement post-scan and supplementing IP-level reporting with things like conversion metrics, foot-traffic attribution metrics, revenue-per-scan metrics, and very granular demo, interest, behavior metrics associated with scanners’ personal devices.
Gray: The current and future generations of smart TVs hold the key to solving many of the problems that have held back progress in television advertising. To be able to measure ad exposure — as well as business outcomes — has been a boon to digital advertising over the years. Finally, this same fidelity of measurement is available to help move the television industry forward!
What level of confidence do you have in the output of current audience measurement metrics?
Cody Tunney, executive vice president, analytics, Yangaroo: There are so many details being addressed in audience measurement right now. We can zoom in at the smallest atomic level and debate "What is an impression?" or "Did the spot actually air?" Or we could zoom out to the end of the measurement process and examine the different kinds of attribution models. In terms of confidence: the conversation has started, our eyes are open to the strengths and weaknesses of each option, and I am confident that we will come to great agreements. We are far from having the right answers because the video-viewing environment is rapidly changing.
Glenn: Every piece of media is moving toward measurability, but, that said, I would be wary of anything that is based on supposition or delivery.
Gray: I have very little confidence in probabilistic models, but I am excited about deterministic models. The panel sizes will continue to grow in scale but are currently large enough to provide incredible insights. Being able to understand real reach and frequency, the impact of different ad formats, and how it all correlates to business outcomes is groundbreaking for the television industry.
What might become the new audience guarantees and/or possible established rate bases?
Glenn: We could see an increase in performance-based pricing and conversion metrics. I would expect to see more strategic buys at higher rates and perhaps differences in actual volume of delivery.
Gray: With deterministic models of audience measurement, the current metrics of GRP and CPM may well survive, but these models also open the door to guarantees tied to measurable business outcomes. For someone who has been in accountable advertising for more than 33 years, this makes a lot of sense!
Tunney: The biggest problem with changing audience measurement sources is the impression guarantee. There are many legacy brands that have amazing established audience guarantees, and with change, there are risks. And those risks have real dollar consequences for some brands.
What barriers do challenger brands have to overcome to find a seat at the audience measurement table?
Glenn: The tried-and-true metrics of impressions and GRPs are going to continue to have their hold on an industry that is historically slow to change.
Gray: On the deterministic side of the industry, it’s all about scale and proficiency. Big datasets such as those produced by millions of smart TVs, create many challenges. At iSpot.tv, we just celebrated our 10-year anniversary. That’s 10 years to build and scale a best-of-breed TV deterministic measurement platform. This year, DRMetrix also celebrated its 10-year anniversary of serving the DR and DTC industries.
Tunney: Data from any one smart TV manufacturer is generally not a large enough sample size for the kind of insight that performance brands are seeking. It’s directional, not deterministic.
Companies like iSpot are aggregating the ACR data from the different smart TV manufacturers, which makes it more valuable and a greater sample size.
Who benefits most from new media measurement methodologies?
Brown: Any brand or business can benefit from tools that measure the effectiveness of their marketing and advertising, but especially direct-to-consumer/e-commerce companies, agencies and their clients, and media companies.
As mediums such as podcasts, OTT/CTV, and TikTok and YouTube continue to expand their reach with advertising, knowing which channels work for a brand to reach consumers comes down to measurement. Be it attribution (multi-touch or point solutions), customer journey analytics, or incrementality, there are vendors and tools with the know-how to collect data in privacy-compliant ways, and people to examine the data so it makes sense to their agency or radio/TV representative, an enterprise’s marketing team, and the leaders of the businesses competing for consumer attention.
Glenn: Everyone. Viewers will appreciate better, more relevant, bespoke content and opted-in engagement. Brands can benefit from better advertising performance and more engaged audiences. Media companies will benefit from increased viewer loyalty and happier advertisers.
Gray: All stakeholders in the television industry benefit from the technology that has made deterministic solutions possible: from the largest media companies, like NBCU, to individual brands. Consumer electronic companies who are creating smart consumer devices benefit. Let’s not forget about consumers who benefit by seeing ads that are more relevant.
In the DR world, it’s easy to make the mistake of overdelivering on frequency, which consumers hate. It is often wasteful and encourages consumers to skip ads. As agencies learn to better optimize placements, and measure creative fatigue, consumers and advertisers benefit alike.
Tunney: Generally, media sellers benefit from looser audience measurement methodologies — that’s not to be accusatory. Brands and agencies benefit from the most precise data available, because it helps them determine the best place to reach their audience and achieve the desired outcome.
Are brands and agencies pushing for new audience measurement standards, or is the big push coming from the businesses playing in the burgeoning measurement space?
Brown: Brands and agencies are pushing for audience measurement tools that provide impartial and unbiased data across all marketing channels — or at least have a cross-channel measurement tool to verify that data pulled from point solutions do not give biased credit to any single marketing or ad channel.
It’s a mix of agencies driving the growing attribution industry — as they want to do right by their advertising clients and keep those clients — to enterprises asking for help to measure their marketing effectiveness.
In one case study, ZQuiet, the maker of a break-through anti-snoring mouthpiece, worked with its agency Hybrid Media Services and LeadsRx to identify what marketing channels were working best at aiming its ad dollars in the right direction. Dan Browdy, COO of Zquiet, says, "It’s been an invaluable tool to us to make sure our ad spends are working. Return-on-ad-spend is everything in direct response, and with improved analytic tools in 2018, we saw a 20-percent increase in ROAS; then working with LeadsRx, we have increased that at least 5 percent each year since."
Gray: The big push is coming from digitally native direct-to-consumer brands that desire to measure the results of their television advertising like online advertising — which is very deterministic. They also want to use a vanity call-to-action to better brand. They are often advertising a vanity website or phone number, which makes traditional DR measurement impossible. Without deterministic attribution solutions, these brands will struggle from less-optimized campaigns where they are unable to accurately measure the business impact of their offline advertising. In recent years, we’re seeing the greatest interest in deterministic measurement solutions from these types of advertisers.
What "big thing" occurs in terms of audience measurement by the end of 2022?
Brown: Keep an eye out for conversion intelligence that combines artificial intelligence and machine learning with attribution. It’s essentially predictive analytics, as AI knows what creative will work best — down to specific SEO-effective words and graphics — before a campaign launches. Then, through multi-touch attribution and customer journey analytics, campaigns can be measured to see what touchpoints or combination thereof are working best to push customers through the funnel.
The theorem is (AI x ML) attribution = conversion intelligence. That should mean improved marketing performance, an increased number of marketing-qualified leads, and increased sales.
Gray: There have been so many breakthroughs in just the past 12 months, I can’t wait to see what happens by the close of 2022. To name a few, iSpot.tv acquired DRMetrix and Tunity, expanded its smart TV panel by partnering with LG Ad Solutions, recently aligned with Twitter, became the first NBCUniversal partner for alternative measurement — including for the Olympics and Super Bowl — and just closed a $325 million deal with Goldman Sachs.
Tunney: First, audience measurement and improved data availability will only benefit the brands and agencies that are both willing to change and willing to absorb the insights. We could dissect and disrupt every single aspect of the advertising measurement process, but if we aren’t willing to do something with it, then it’s a futile exercise.
By the end of 2022, I would love to see a unified impression across linear and CTV. By connecting the metadata behind the ad creative at the point of distribution, Yangaroo and Innovid can provide a truly consolidated view of an ad’s audience across linear and CTV.