Nielsen, comScore At A Cross-Screen Measurement Crossroads

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BridgeDollarAs the growing number of smart TVs and connected devices cause further fragmentation, de-duped cross-platform measurement has become the media planner’s imperative. Nielsen and comScore are answering the call by beefing up digital video and mobile integrations in their respective media measurement tools.

Nielsen since 1950 has been inextricably linked to TV audience measurement, claiming access to 40% of global television viewer behavior in addition to digital and offline data partnerships with Facebook and CPG-centric Catalina Marketing Solutions. ComScore, however, has been the de facto digital audience measurement, combining a two-million-person panel with census-based data.

“For the most part, and there are always exceptions, if I’m a TV buyer, Nielsen is my currency and if I’m a digital buyer, comScore is my currency,” said Scott Ferber, CEO of Videology, which integrates both sets of measurement into its digital video and TV ads platform. “It’s not to say one is better than the other, because they both [solve] different things.”

Several media industry insiders shared these sentiments. The general consensus in the TV/video arena is, “If we want to reach the true, Holy Grail of cross-device, de-duplicated reach and frequency, there’s only one company that has ownership of this currency and that’s Nielsen.”

This does not mean comScore is out in the cold. The company is the darling of digital measurement, and later this year will release a "Total Video Cross-Platform Planning System," which provides unduplicated audience metrics for digital video and TV. Additionally, this fall comScore has plans to roll out Video Metrix 3.0, a tool that can track video audiences across desktop, over-the-top (OTT), mobile and tablet devices.

To even the most casual observer, it would appear comScore is interested in clinching TV budgets. But Serge Matta, CEO of comScore, insists he is not looking to take on linear television. “In no part of any roadmap am I going to launch a standalone TV service,” he commented. “Since TV is moving to digital, and we have a very big presence in digital – that’s our heritage, our DNA – we want to measure the intersection of TV and digital, but not on standalone platforms. We’re not looking to have an alternative service to TV ratings.”

The TV-Digital Dollar Debate

Apart from these advancements, the lack of true cross-platform measurement remains the main barrier to television ad dollars moving en masse to digital video.

“Right or wrong, that’s the excuse that’s used,” said John Muszynski, CIO of Spark and former CEO of Starcom USA, during a “From TV To Total Video” panel hosted by comScore last week. "Clients frequently ask, 'What kind of incremental reach do I get [by incorporating digital buys] into my [TV] plan?' We need to prove multi-touch platforms are delivering sales results” in order for budgets to move."

Media planners need a single-source, unduplicated audience metric for all screens that incorporate over-the-top devices (OTT) and mobile.

“The interesting and perplexing thing to digital companies is… television has a fragmentation problem [rather than a] usage or monetization problem,” said Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia, a company that helps advertisers unlock premium television inventory through addressable audience data. “I think there is finally a recognition on the part of the digital companies that they need to become more like TV [because TV is] less likely to become more like them.”

And just as traditional TV has long relied on the gross ratings point (GRP) to measure the impact of an advertisement – the percent of a target audience reached multiplied by the frequency of exposure to that ad – “TV-like” equivalents have emerged as companies adopt digital measurement apparatuses in the form of Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings (OCR) and comScore validated Campaign Essentials (vCE).

In most instances, it’s not a matter of “one or the other” with measurement, but simply, how one is used in relation to the other as necessitated by advertiser need. After all, due to an FTC agreement comScore can for eight years license television and radio data from Nielsen Audio (formerly known as Arbitron). The company more recently integrated vCE into the DoubleClick and Yahoo ad servers.

“If an agency is willing to use multiple vendors, buyers can test and learn [to see] which provides the [best] depth of insight to make the smartest media decisions possible,” commented Robin Zieme, VP of video and trading at cross-channel ad tech company Adconion Direct. “We can only assume both Nielsen OCR and comScore vCE will continue to grow their capabilities as TV and digital video budgets consolidate industry-wide.”

TV and Digital Meet Over Mobile

Many agency clients use marketing mix modeling to justify their respective media expenditures, but the problem is, “they have been built based on TV target rating points input into the system, [which] compare their comps on sales based on what they did a year prior,” said Starcom’s Muszynski. “They say, ‘I’m only at 160. I need to be at 180. My sales are down,’” when in reality, tablets and smartphones are causing incremental pull.

If dollars are invested in a manner that doesn't account for multi-device viewing, “we are asking for [linear TV] to increase our prices,” he said. “There's also no incentive for major TV providers to get into the space. It's not in their best interest to push this agenda, but if they shift with us, the dollars will shift as well.” (As a side note: Nielsen on Monday released an annual Advertising and Audiences report, in which it claims TV viewing is on the rise, at least with American audiences. It's important to note the cost of the average broadcast prime time spot -- $75,000, which is about 10x as much as it was in 2009.)

Mobile will be the impetus for networks and advertisers to push dollars and campaign measurement cross-platform. There are already signs of greater collaboration between the TV networks and measurement companies in this regard. Take, for instance, Nielsen and NBCUniversal teaming up on a “three-screen” pilot to measure ad exposure during the winter Olympics across TV, mobile and desktop.

Although NBC has not yet released results of the pilot, the network used a combination of Nielsen Cross-Platform Campaign Ratings, mobile OCR (which will be available for wide release in Q3) and TV ratings to measure incremental reach, frequency and GRP for age and gender across TV and digital.

“In a couple of years, you will see marketers using the OCR system to measure media no matter where it goes,” said Steve Hasker, president of global product leadership at Nielsen, recently at a recent video summit hosted by BrightRoll. “We want to make sure the products become more granular and its utility rises – that we’re not just creating some blanket currency.”

As of Oct. 1, Nielsen TV ratings will include mobile viewing and “with every campaign you run with OCR, you can optimize and build out your own data repositories,” Hasker added. The data question is critical to marketers and agencies, namely – how much access will they have?

“In terms of delivery of data, it’s walk before run,” said Manish Bhatia, CRO for comScore, who was formerly president of advanced digital services at Nielsen. “We do custom runs for ad campaigns and fully realize information is a perishable commodity so speeding up data delivery is a key component of that.”

 

 

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