The Great Measurement Debate @ ALM

The IAB Annual Leadership meeting was in full swing this week with hundreds of industry stakeholders listening attentively to the state of digital media live from New York. This year’s theme was “Visions and Decisions” alluding to the critical turning point we find ourselves in as we come out of a two-year pandemic record-scratch. Among the topics discussed, measurement took a front seat and there was certainly no shortage of visions. 

A lively panel debate featuring Adam Gerber, Executive Director, Investment Strategy 
at GroupM and Mainak Mazumdar, Chief Data and Research Officer at Nielsen got right into the heart of the situation while commenting that the intention is not to blow up and start from ground zero, but rather to break things apart to help simplify. Gerber kicked off by outlining three key considerations defining the holy grail of media measurement today: 

  1. Re-establish the definition of an impression as a human exposure to content rendered. 
  2. Get clear on what we are aiming to measure including the notion of digging into transactions, which need to be standardized as opposed to value which is defined differently by each investor.
    • Without outright dismissing the traditional means to measure a minimum viewable impression delivered, which is still useful as a baseline, we must now layer in device, channel, audience information and the creative itself in to properly evaluate an impression against specific objectives. 
  3. Brand awareness continues to be important but need to know where and at what point it is established. Following best practices to ascertain whether awareness has been established is critical when laddering up other metrics like brand suitability, time spent and or engagement with ad content.
  4. Responsible investment which includes addressing data ethics, privacy, and carbon emissions. This he cited was not only out of respect for the consumer but also to avoid inefficiencies associated with over-tagging and wasted impressions that require excessive amounts of electricity.

Nielsen’s view was largely complimentary. Mazumdar spoke about the importance of building out consistent metrics like a unified impression across all platforms that would contribute towards garnering consumer trust by addressing relevant content, as well as frequency and reach issues. He went on to discuss the matter of quality in that getting a handle on a qualified audience is critical. A few ways in which Nielsen is working towards this through NielsenOne and includes: 

  • Deduping measurement across linear tv, connected tv, browsers and platforms.
  • Inclusion of a calibrated panel. 

 When the panelists were asked why it has been so challenging to arrive at holistic measurement in an industry that has now existed for over 20 years, both panelists shared strong views. Gerber felt that the lack of alignment has largely been due to a lack of transparency citing that billions of dollars are at stake, and the risk of exposing inefficiency is too great. He went on to mention that advertisers are at a point where they are willing to transition their dollars into the digital channels but are hesitating without assurances that the measurement is being addressed on mutual terms. 

 Mazumdar felt that a major factor was the complexity that has been brought on by the general disruption of the media. His view was that the refocus on measurement of people vs. the technical aspect of ads rendered, was the main cause of temporary misalignment while remaining confident that we would arrive at practical solutions over time.  

Both panelists agree that the way forward begins with an acceptable understanding that nobody has a full solution. Instead, we should all work towards a common outcome and ensure that we are delivering interoperable data that can be leveraged across the board in flexible ways according to each stakeholder’s objectives. This keeps trust at the epicenter.  

Looking forward, Gerber said that there are a lot of things to figure out in the coming months and years. Understanding the viability of the metaverse was top of the list, but he also felt that there were interesting developments in the gaming space. Either way, these emerging media landscapes are being driven by consumers, and the industry will have its hands full keeping up to measure up. Nielsen agreed with a final reiteration that regardless of which landscapes come out as winners, measuring people – as opposed to transactions, will be the way forward no matter where they are or what they are doing citing; after all, even avatars in the metaverse have proxies. 

There were several other discussions on day two that touched on measurement and the topic is sure to be on the top of our agenda at IAB Canada this year. We look forward to collaborating with all stakeholders in the industry to ensure that we strike a balance between interoperability and relevant value for advertisers. More to come over the next few weeks.