Nielsen Upgrades Cross Platform Insights — But Look To Upfront 2013 For Full Use

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March 19, 2012 – 12:08 pm

Nielsen and GroupMCross platform advertising has been a factor in the TV upfronts for several years now, but actionable data that connects consumers on all screens has remained murky and vague.

Nielsen's joint announcement with ad holding company WPP Group on a new service that claims to better track total TV and internet usage with overlapped reach and frequency for ad campaigns is the latest in a long line of steps the audience measurement agency has taken over the years. (Read the release.)

But Nielsen in no way suggests that this is the final step in tying all the screens together. In a conversation last week about Nielsen's plans for the coming upfront -- and the internet industry-wide digital "Newfront" -- Dounia Turrill, the company's SVP for client insights, told TVExchanger that the company is in the attempting to formalize its upfront efforts to include insights on tablet usage and social media.

The Cross-Platform Campaign Ratings is currently being beta tested with a number of Nielsen clients, who will be able to use it for the upfront if they choose. So for most companies out there, they'll have to wait until the 2013 upfront to access that full data.  In the meantime, Nielsen's Online Campaign Ratings is very much ready for 2012 upfront use and will be in the mix.

While complaints about Nielsen's ratings and methodology come from all quarters of the media industry, at the end of the day, the company's numbers are agreed upon as the common industry standard for TV. The online ad industry has long hoped for a single standard everyone can agree on as well. But as the lines between media blur -- is ABC's GCB series still a TV show when its seen on Hulu? Or does it become just an online video? -- the need for metrics that more fully reflect consumers' actual media habits is in greater demand than yet another format-specific measurement.

"Everybody wants that single number," says Nielsen's Turrill, who spoke about Nielsen's upfront effort, not its new cross platform arrangement that's beginning with WPP. "We know what reach means and frequency in the TV world. There is that desire to do that for online. Online campaign ratings have enabled our clients to look at campaigns in terms of GRP numbers and reach and frequency. That's been a positive development for the industry."

When it comes to a number that runs across all media, the focus for premium advertisers has been on the somewhat nebulous concept of "engagement": who is paying attention to my ad and what was the impact of the message?

"We have this idea of TV as this screen in the living room, but rather than counting the number of people tuning in, what we really want to be able to talk about is the level of content absorption," she said. "And that doesn't matter if it's delivered to through a computer, gaming console, phone. Engagement puts a value on your attention. That's a critical measure. It's important to note that engagement will be different depending on where one experiences media. For example, DVR commercial retention for someone new is different from someone who's had that kind of service for a while."

Over the past few months, Nielsen has unveiled a number of online/TV cross platform efforts, including a partnership with video ad network YuMe, which is also expanding its platform to connected TVs. It's also released a much-debated report on cross platform usage.

The new service, dubbed Nielsen Cross-Platform Campaign Ratings,, will use the Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings, which employs reach, frequency and GRP measures for web-based ads, along with its TV ratings tools.

The effort calls for WPP's media shop GroupM to contribute "resources and expertise" to create Cross-Platform Campaign Ratings and make it available to GroupM clients. The two companies will also work together to develop innovative new measurement tools that extend beyond TV and online to other platforms.

For the most part, analytics is a practice, not an end. There's always a different way of measuring media consumption. This year, tablets and social media are crucial. Five years from now, there may be something different. While Dounia talks about getting everything into a nice, neat package, the hope for a single, unifying number is probably going to remain elusive.

"When it comes to digital, because you're talking about various platforms, there will be ways to compare apples to apples, to a certain extent," Dounia said. "In the conversations around the upfront, there is a definite need for a one-size-fits-all metric. But in order to get the fullest picture, you're still going to find apples and oranges in the mix. That's the nature of media in this day and age."

By David Kaplan


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March 19, 2012 – 12:08 pm

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