Nielsen Announces New Approach to Online Ad Measurement

Initial results imply targeting of Web ads about as accurate as TV

Online advertising still struggles to meet its long-promised levels of targeting and measurability. Solutions to the targeting problem continue to emerge, moving on from ad networks to demand-side platforms and real-time exchanges. Now Nielsen is addressing the measurement part of the problem.

In an announcement at the Advertising Research Foundation meeting on Monday, Nielsen noted the latest phase in its Online Campaign Ratings initiative. Working with websites that have large collections of registered users (predominantly Facebook now, but more are set to join the partnership) as well as its own panel data, Nielsen gives advertisers a new way of verifying that their online ads reach the intended targets.

“In one instance,” says Charles Buchwalter, svp of Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings, “we showed that in a campaign in which a CPG advertiser intended to reach females 18-34 for a personal care product, 55 percent of the impressions were served to men.”

The new system’s advantage lies in its use of registration data, rather than just information gleaned from their online behavior. Partner sites share with Nielsen anonymous data on exactly which users saw an ad. Nielsen extrapolates from its own panel data to give a picture for the whole Internet.

The results so far are not promising for what is meant to be the most highly targeted medium there ever was. “Preliminary findings suggest that audience delivery within targets for online campaigns is not much different from what’s occurring in TV,” says Buchwalter.

The new system may go some way to resolving the question about how inaccurately supposedly targeted ads have been served. Advertisers will get a view of the extent of the problem, but, of course, they are left with the problem of how to fix it in the first place.


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