• We Still Need to Keep F**ing With the Magic

    More than two years ago, Ooyala wrote an article entitled “It’s High Time We F**ked With the Magic,” which called for the advertising industry to align behind a standard for online GRP measurement. (The article’s title refers to an oft-told industry story in which a media company exec accuses a Google exec of “f**ing with the magic” by making it easier for marketers to track their online ad spend.) Nearly thirty months later, we’ve seen some advances on the standards front, but we’re still asking the industry to dispense with the magic in measurement.

    Before the treasure troves of data we have today were available, the industry was more accepting of ad measures that were a pinch of this and a dash of that; a little art, and a little science. But now that we have data analytics that measure everything from our exercise and caloric intake to our sleep patterns, it’s truly time for the sleight of hand measurement approaches to disappear. Marketers and publishers are dealing in real money, not pixie dust, and deserve a standards-based understanding of online video ad metrics to help them make sound investments.

    Certainly, as an industry we’ve taken some huge steps in the right direction on the measurement front. Nielsen’s online campaign ratings and comScore’s validated campaign essentials are both MRC-accredited standards to measure frequency and Gross GRPs for video as well as display advertising. Yet, the two measures differ in how they determine population, making it tricky for brands and advertisers to use them in concert. While the MRC has committed to developing standards for online GRPs, the IAB’s research, analytics and measurement SVP Sherrill Mane says that the implementation will likely take “a year or two.”
    Of course, GRPs are only the tip of the Matterhorn.  The industry is also grappling with a myriad of other issues, including viewability. It’s all well and good to measure reach and frequency, but how does one determine if a consumer has actually seen an ad, and what measures are acceptable to define length of time and size of the view? When it comes to establishing a widely-accepted viewability standard, the MRC has as many accredited measurement vendors as Snow White has dwarves. And just like the dwarves, each viewability criteria is unique.
    No discussion regarding standards would be complete without a mention of unified cross-device measurement. Cross device-attribution, an issue that continues to dog the online world, is an essential piece of the puzzle required to bust open the magic myth and create transparency in ad spend. Advertisers need to understand when, where and how frequently viewers are moving (or staying) across devices.  Nielsen and others have recently made some attempts at addressing the issue, but by and large, the industry isn’t convinced that it’s been resolved.

    Attribution is incomplete though, without data regarding how viewing habits change based on devices.  Marketers need to understand what content is viewed most frequently on what devices, during which hours and in which locations. Other viewing habits such as conversion rates, video completion rates and social sharing events should also be integrated into standard measures. Most importantly, marketers need the means to analyze a complete range of data variables in real time to enable the on-the-fly decision making that’s so critical for live programming.

    And, finally, the real holy grail in ad transparency is combined viewing data and well-defined, standard ad measures. By linking these insights we gain a truly holistic understanding of success that allows everyone to benefit. Marketers and publishers could collaborate and leverage the merged insights to tailor the entire video experience, boosting audience engagement and therefore CPMs. Advertisers could sell to specific audiences, tailor campaigns by device, location (and possibly even length of engagement) to give the viewer a personal experience that’s unique to them and the perfect buy for advertisers.

    The entire industry has much to gain in continuing to create and improve on viewing and ad measurement standards. The lack of urgency in making the necessary progress holds us all back and just won’t cut it if our industry is to continue to grow, diversify and innovate - not even if we infuse a little bit of magic.

    Belsasar Lepe is co-founder & SVP, Products and Solutions of Ooyala.