Is This the Long-Awaited Answer to Measuring Video Viewers Everywhere They’re Watching?

Handicapping the cross-platform players

But that’s not stopping marketers from chasing consumers across screens. Ad spending attributed to multiscreen campaigns is expected to mushroom from 20 percent of budgets to 50 percent in the next three years, according to Nielsen and the Association of National Advertisers.

The absence of cross-screen measurement has gone from mere irritant to significant industry shortcoming, network research execs say. By Wurtzel’s back-of-the-envelope calculation, NBCU is being shortchanged by as much as 0.3 of a rating point in the 18-49 demo from viewing that falls outside Nielsen’s current ecosystem. That, he adds, amounts to an ad-dollar shortfall in the nine-figure range, which the network monetizes using a patch quilt of metrics from different providers.

Buyers say getting to the measurement promised land would affect how they plan and buy, eliminate guesswork, and make campaigns more effective and efficient.

“The more precise measurement we have, the less waste in our media buying, and that’s incredibly important to us,” says David Campanelli, svp, director of national TV at Horizon Media.

Campanelli and other agency execs say it would simplify the buying and selling process, enabling one-stop shopping and a seamless transaction across screens and giving them a better chance of not missing viewers they want to reach in a given time period.

For example, an advertiser could buy ABC’s Modern Family and travel with the show during the three-day currency window from linear TV to video-on-demand to websites like Hulu and to streaming apps.

“I want to be able to buy the show from the network and live wherever the content of that show travels, particularly through the C3 window,” Campanelli says. Under the current system, an advertiser who wants to reach the show’s entire audience has to deal with multiple sellers, each offering a different portion of viewers.

A clearer understanding of the value each platform delivers would help buyers get a bigger bang from their media dollar and enable sellers to better value their ad inventory, stakeholders say. “That would allow the industry to capture more of its true value and enable higher analytics to help people use all the media more effectively and measure the impact more completely,” says CBS chief research officer David Poltrack.

Advertisers could, for example, experiment with different allocation models to determine how effectively they reach their intended target. Ad executions could be timed more precisely. “It would open up tremendous opportunity for good evaluation of where the money can best be spent,” GroupM’s Schwartz says.

The ability to feed cross-platform data into media-mix models will improve the accuracy of those ad-effectiveness tools, which are used to allocate billions of dollars in ad spending, research executives say. The influence is also likely to extend to content creation. CIMM managing director Jane Clarke says multiscreen measurement will have “a really big impact” on decisions media companies make about investing in new content and how to monetize it.

Media companies say a detailed picture of how consumers move from platform to platform would help them put together smarter ad proposals for their clients.

ESPN svp of global research and analytics Artie Bulgrin, an early Blueprint proponent, envisions a day when ESPN and other networks can project reach and frequency of ad exposure for individual screens in a campaign proposal. “Having this type of tool is critical for advising clients on how to use ESPN across platforms and how to get the best return on their investments,” he says. The sports giant plans to use Blueprint extensively this summer to track exposure to the 2014 FIFA World Cup before applying the data to the upcoming season of Monday Night Football.

Pivotal Research Group senior analyst Brian Wieser sees Blueprint as a potential media planning complement to Nielsen ratings, not a replacement. “There isn’t a credible threat from comScore,” he says. “Show me the TV buyer that says they’re going to go without their Nielsen data that’s not in the middle of a negotiation with Nielsen. The reality is they can’t execute without it.”

While a common currency would make it easier to move ad dollars across venues, some worry it could dilute what makes each medium unique. The challenge isn’t just to measure the totality of exposure but to better grasp the difference in impact between an ad on TV, a mobile device and a computer. “We don’t want to build a system that incorrectly homogenizes measurement across media channels that actually function and communicate quite differently,” Poltrack says.

Buyers suggest that while comScore’s Project Blueprint and Nielsen’s plans to include mobile viewing in its TV ratings are steps in the right direction, much work remains. Measurement providers need samples large enough to capture the smaller audiences that have splintered across platforms. And once a more unified measurement is available, media sales forces will need to be retrained on how to sell based on that new measurement.

Despite an explosion of new devices and the vast troves of user data they produce, advertising’s mission of putting the right message in front of the right consumer at the right time remains the same as it’s always been. Says Schwartz: “We’re still doing that today. We’re just doing it with many more options and much more information than we ever had before.” 

The Incumbent The Challenger
is adding mobile viewing to its TV ratings service.
(with data licensed from Nielsen Audio in collaboration with the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement) is conducting phase 2 of proof-of-concept trials for Project Blueprint.
Census-style panel matched with demographic data from Facebook to produce mobile viewing estimates, calibrated against Nielsen's representative National People Meter panel; eligible C3 viewing is credited to Nielsen TV ratings, non-eligible viewing credits Nielsen digital ratings.
Unified measurement across five screens using combinations of “single-source” measurement to calibrate duplication; uses set-top box data for TV viewing combined with demographics from Nielsen Audio’s PPM panel and census-based methods to track online and mobile video viewing, combined with demographics from comScore’s panel.
Sample Size
Nielsen’s National People Meter panel of 22,000 homes (55,000 people) plus 180 million Facebook users in the U.S.
Sample Size
ComScore’s panel of 1 million; 5 million set-top boxes; Nielsen Audio’s 70,000 PPM panel.
Anticipated Launch Date
Q3 for mobile viewing credited to TV ratings, Q4 for mobile viewing credited to Nielsen Digital Ratings.

Anticipated Launch Date
Phase 2 pilot test to be completed in Q3; syndicated service launch TBA.

Industry Buy-In
Positive response from clients and investors; Nielsen is seeking Media Rating Council accreditation.
Industry Buy-In
10 media companies and three agency groups are participating in second phase of pilot test.
Other Providers  
USA Touchpoints
Planning tool adds a layer of consumption context, entails panelists filling out an electronic diary of their media usage, including location, activities, social setting and mood.
Ad-impact tool matches set-top box TV and comScore digital media metrics with auto and CPG purchase data.
Ad-effectiveness tool links TV viewing to product purchase data.
Ad-effectiveness tool connects national TV-viewing data with consumer transactions and automobile registrations.


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