Google and Nielsen Partner on Online Campaign Ratings [Updated]

Buyers are starting to test buys negotiated on OCR

As part of the ongoing quest to get more TV dollars to Web video, buyers and sellers are suddenly in love with old school metrics like ratings and GRPs. Over the past year few months, many brands and agencies have been insisting on making guaranteed buys using Nielsen’s online campaign ratings (OCR) or to a lesser extent, comScore’s validated Campaign Essentials (VCE).

The only problem has been that the biggest player in Web video, Google (which owns a little site called YouTube), hasn’t been willing to play ball. The company was just saying no to OCR deals.

That’s changing. Google has begun quietly inviting select clients to begin testing ad campaigns sold using OCR data.

The company isn’t saying which brands are involved just yet. But the hope is to test and learn, and eventually make the OCR option available to all Google video advertisers. ComScore’s VCE is in the mix as well.

“We know our clients want meaningful measurement, which is why we’re investing in brand-friendly metrics,” said a Google spokesperson. “While we continue to build measurement options powered by Google, we’re also partnering with industry leaders, such as Nielsen and comScore, to offer objective, credentialed, third-party measurement options. Nielsen’s OCR recently joined VCE as a certified measurement provider, and we’re working with both on roll-out plans after we do early testing.”

The partnership is another win for Nielsen, which has not always enjoyed the reporting monopoly on the Web that it’s long maintained in TV. "This development is further evidence of the momentum and broad marketplace support for our efforts to deliver independent measurement of advertising campaigns across distribution platforms,"  said a Nielsen spokesperson.

[Updated] comScore says it's been working with Google for a while, and according to its data, three times as many ad campaigns employ VCE vs. Nielsen's OCR (that data includes both display and video efforts). In addition, comScore claims that 22 out 25 global advertisers are using VCE in some fashion.

However, it’s worth nothing that Google is also working on its own measurement product for video—something even YouTubers have advocated for. And given the company’s analytical prowess—and the massive footprint YouTube offers—if done right, a Google-led metric could potentially eclipse whatever Nielsen or comScore can offer.

But for now, it’s clear that Google is taking more steps to court big brand advertisers. The company hosted a NewFront event last spring, where it urged more advertisers to invest in YouTube’s native stars. And just a few weeks ago, Google inked a multi-year upfront deal with MediaVest. And Nikesh Arora, svp and chief business officer, emphasized brand dollars during the most recent Q3 Google earnings call. "We found that YouTube is our brand torch-bearer," Arora said. "It offers brands valuable, engaged audiences, terrific reach and compelling content. Smart brands are really loving their engagement with YouTube."