Audience Measurement at the 2019 asi Conference – Enter the Advertiser (Part One)

The measurement of audiences to media channels is both essential and far too often ignored as a topic by many of those in agencies and ad sales organisations who seem to spend much of their time polishing their oh-so-cool social media personas.

Yet, without measuring who watches / reads / views / listens to or sees the media forms in which commercial messages appear there would be no firm basis on which to plan and buy (or sell) advertising.

We would also be missing a major component in evaluating effect. Unless there is reliable data on how many and who has been exposed to the message we cannot realistically judge whether the campaign has worked or not.

Audience measurement may not be as cool as this week’s shiny new thing – but it’s a heck of a lot more significant to the future of our business.

Over time the media research business has evolved a smart model. The researchers recognised long ago the need for pragmatism, developing channel-specific industry-accepted techniques to standards pre-agreed by all.

Times change. The systems developed over time are creaking as new players decide they have no particular reason to join what they see as an establishment party.

Take TV and video. BARB in the UK, and its equivalents in other markets, is very largely funded by the broadcasters whose audiences it measures.

Google, Facebook and other video players do not participate – they have their own rules and definitions that are not aligned with BARB’s, and they’re doing very nicely commercially without playing to long-established rules created by others in a different era.

On the other hand, why should the funding broadcasters change their rules to bring competitors for ad revenue into their club?

The ultimate losers in this breakdown of research law and order, as represented by the joint industry or JIC approach are the advertisers and their agencies. But they aren’t the majority funders of the research.

Advertisers and their agencies need a firm basis to set budgets, allocate funds between media forms, to plan against set objectives, to buy space or time and to evaluate results.

At the very least there’s a clear need for total video measurement, with definitions (of what constitutes viewing, as an example) and standards agreed across the industry, globally.

And there’s a need for research to allow for cross-media measurement to allow for more solid planning between media forms, as well as within those forms. Again, globally.

All of this was the subject of discussion at the 2019 asi TV and Video Conference in Prague last week.

As one asi contributor, Jane Clarke from the Coalition for Innovative Media Management in the US put it, solving these issues is less of a technical research issue and more to do with business and politics.

Phil Smith, from ISBA (the UK advertiser association) who is also a major player within the World Federation of Advertisers used the asi Prague platform to launch an ambitious initiative to measure audiences across media.

You can access ISBA’s press release here via the asi site; and you can also see a video of me interviewing the ISBA team immediately after the session here.

This is a significant move for a number of reasons.

First – this is an advertiser initiative. A few of us who’ve been around far too long will remember the days when advertisers showed little interest in anything even remotely to do with media, let alone in media measurement.

Fortunately, those days are largely in the past – in no small part due to the realisation amongst the world’s biggest budget-holders that there are issues around the media world (including transparency) that need their active involvement.

There used to be a quote, framed in the office of the media lead on the McDonald’s business at Leo Burnett in Chicago that read: “Media is far too important to be left to media people”.

Advertisers have realised that the shaping of media measurement is too important to be left only to the media measurement community.

The technical experts need to be briefed to allow them to work their magic.

And a key part of that briefing is answering the twin questions: what would you like? And who will pay for it?

As ISBA explained at the asi in Prague, it is well on the way to addressing the first of these. The second (the issue of who pays) will be the subject of the next Cog Blog post.

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