4A’s: Firms Work to Solve Data Dilemma

Data. The media and marketing industry has it in abundance.

As Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said in her Monday address at the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Transformation Conference, “We’re drowning in data.”

The problem, for both the online and offline media worlds, is how to develop processes for manipulating information in ways that add to the collective knowledge about patterns of usage, behavior and accountability.

Two 4A’s sessions on Monday at the conference in San Francisco addressed some of these issues.

During one panel, Jane Clarke, managing director of the Coalition for Innovation in Media Measurement, outlined the priorities set by the group as it strives to improve techniques for gauging set-top box data and cross-platform video metrics.

One task on the STB front, said Clarke, is to get everyone on the same page — and using the same jargon. Given the confusion within the industry, Clarke is compiling a “lexicon” of terms (and their meanings) for processing and analyzing STB measurement. This will be a “living document” that will reside on the CIMM Web site, she said.

Who knew, for example, that STBs have a “latency” issue. This is defined as the lag time that exists as programs are fed through different boxes at the same time (or nearly the same time). Such lags can be problematic when you’re trying to develop a second-by-second measurement standard.

Clarke said that CIMM would also explore standards issues and work to ensure that STB measurement processes are designed to meet the accreditation requirements of the Media Ratings Council.

On the cross-platform front, the first priority is to develop standards for measuring unduplicated audience reach. Participating vendors, she said, should be prepared to develop processes that at minimum include the three screens most clients want information about: TV, online and mobile.

Meanwhile, participants on a separate panel addressing online data issues indicated that much work is required to get the right metrics in place .

Part of the problem, said Bruce Biegel, managing director, Winterberry Group, is a lack of talent. “There’s a skill-set gap,” he said. “It’s a different world with this much data to play with.”

Adam Gerber, CMO at Quantcast, said the industry often doesn’t provide marketing segments that clients care about. “The path we’re taking is not scaleable,” he said.

There was also debate about the value of demand-side platforms.

David Smith, CEO of MediaSmith, said DSPs offer a “glimmer of hope” of delivering optimal audiences with great efficiency.

Scott Hagedorn, CEO of Omnicom’s PHD, questioned the value of DSPs, arguing that they just add an additional layer “to what is already a pretty cumbersome process.”