Beauty of Digital GRPs Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

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"Data Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Kevin Haley, Chief Scientist at Videology.

Verification is good. Everyone wants to know that what they bought is what they got. With regard to online video, for years the case has been made that gross ratings points (GRPs) are the best way to verify performance, since, for even more years, GRPs have been the measurement standard in television.

With the rollout of Nielsen’s Online Campaign Ratings (OCR) and ComScore’s Validated Campaign Essentials (VCE) we’ve certainly come closer to having a ratings verification system that replicates the GRP system used for TV. Which will prevail? In this case, beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- different advertisers will come to different conclusions. Where the industry lands on this question, however, is less important than the role that digital GRPs will play within the multiplicity of measurement metrics currently available to marketers.

In ad tech, it’s our job to deliver and report on whatever outcome the client deems as success.  In the wake of the Nielsen and ComScore online ratings rollouts, those desired outcomes will be increasingly measured in GRPs because this makes perfect sense for advertisers who need to roll up ratings across television and online video and are looking to manage reach and frequency performance in online video.  Moreover, any measurement that allows us to plan and buy across screens in the converged media world that we live in is a good thing.

But as in television, digital GRPs are only one part of the equation. At best, GRPs only validate who we’ve reached based on age and gender.  At its best, digital marketing uses data to tell us who might be most likely to buy a given brand, how and where to reach them.

And there’s the rub. For years now, digital brand marketers have been urged to look "beyond the click" and focus instead on the true marketing goal of the campaign -- be it awareness, intent or actual sales.  For the most part, marketers are embracing these advanced, data-driven strategies to target, optimize and report. The number of requests for behaviorally-targeted campaigns and offline purchase data is escalating with the number of data-targeted impressions served for clients more than doubling from Q2 2011 to Q2 2012.  We can now tell a CPG marketer how many additional units were sold as a result of their video campaign and how to optimize to sell more, or tell an auto manufacturer which targeting strategies move the greatest number of cars out of the local dealership.

Clearly, our industry has made great strides on closing the loop between messaging input and marketing outcomes. To date, much of this has been accomplished by using cookie data and other means of targeting that extends well beyond the limits of age and gender. This presents a quandary for those advertisers who are interested in using data to enhance their targeting on the front end, yet for some reason, still choose to use a GRP approach to validate on the backend. In other words, it is not logical to target based on one set of data, and measure performance on a different set of data.  Advertisers will have to choose.

Which metric is the right metric?  To be honest, it all depends on the advertiser’s goal. While digital GRPs are the ultimate answer for some advertisers, for others they could actually hinder the optimization against a given objective -- for instance, driving actual sales lift. As such, we must not see ratings as a panacea, but rather continue to develop and improve upon all types of measurement standards to keep pace with the new way advertisers are reaching audiences.

This is important for several reasons. First, unlike television, digital video is still proving its value. It’s been famously said that placing one dollar in digital media cost almost three times as much as placing that same dollar on television. As a result, we need to ensure that our ability to prove ROI is that much more compelling -- and ratings measured in terms of digital GRPs don’t tell the whole story. Second, we simply can do more in backend measurement than most traditional media (at least for now). That’s the beauty of digital! So, while a common set of measurement metrics is ideal -- and television has clearly worked well for multitudes of advertisers -- let’s not underestimate what best practices video advertising can bring to television, as well as vice versa.

The introduction of digital GRPs isn’t a "problem solved" scenario.  With choice comes debate, then decisions.  Rather than quiet the conversation surrounding the measurement of video advertising, the introduction of the digital ratings metric should prompt more questions.  And that’s a good thing.

Follow Videology (@videologygroup) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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One Response to “Beauty of Digital GRPs Is In The Eye Of The Beholder”


  1. David Dowhan says:

    Kevin - great points about the value of digital GRP being relative to the specific advertiser. It is critical that your verification methodology matches your targeting approach. For some advertisers, targeting on the basis of age & gender alone works just fine. The benefits of a digital GRP are clear in this case - getting what you paid for and roll-up across television and online. For other advertisers, the "right user" is a much more nuanced target that cannot be easily defined by a few demographic dimensions.

    At TruSignal, we develop custom audiences for our advertising clients based upon 40 different sources of offline profile data. Our predictive modeling approach discovers many micro-patterns in the data that pinpoint highly profitable new prospects. Age & gender do factor into the targeting equation, but demographics only account for about 20% of equation. So advertisers who target with a TruSignal custom audience and measure with a digital GRP are going to get apples and oranges. To verify that we are targeting the right users, we look at the empirical data. Are the users who were impacted by the campaign actually more profitable, high value users than average?

    Brand awareness and lift studies are pointless if you're not address the right audience to begin with. The digital GRP is a step in the right direction and can provide a basic "sanity check" for advertisers (e.g. Am I targeting the wrong gender?); however with the advances in precise digital targeting, nearly every advertiser can benefit from going much deeper than demo's to connect with their target audience.

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