Measurement In Focus As Amazon, Google Prep For Video Surge

VideoArtAlthough the jury is out whether consumers will completely cut the cord on traditional TV consumption and migrate en masse to Web streaming, publishers are preparing for the cross-platform possibilities presented by shifting viewer habits.

“We’re moving toward consistent measurement,” commented Sarah Baehr, SVP of digital for independent media buying agency Carat, citing the cross-platform ratings and measurement tools Nielsen’s Online Campaign Ratings (OCR) and comScore’s Validated Campaign Essentials Tool (vCE). “I’m not sure either one will win out, but I think that it becomes more of an issue for delivery and I think depending on who you’re trying to capture and how you’re buying television, some of that could be hampered by the measurement piece.”

Google’s push for a piece of TV ad budget

It was for this reason that Google on Tuesday announced it would pipe real-time metrics for measurement into its DoubleClick ad server via comScore’s vCE tool. This, the company claims, gives advertisers more insight into who viewed a particular ad and when.

“Regardless of platform, advertisers need a way to post on audience guarantees,” according to John Nitti, president of activation for media services network ZenithOptimedia. Both vCE and OCR provide that capability, although he noted Nielsen’s current cross-platform measurement is small.

Google, which last week announced the appointment of Commerce and Ads SVP Susan Wojcicki to head YouTube, has seemingly supported both Nielsen OCR and comScore’s vCE equally. But in order for Google to capture the attention and budgetary consideration of TV buyers with video, there has to be measurement and a GRP-ratings equivalent at scale.

“It’s always a Catch-22 of, ‘Do you build something on your own vs. partnering at some level with an established company or format?’” Baehr said. “They certainly have enough scale and enough data between search, desktop, mobile and YouTube. They pretty much in their own right can be a decent and valid barometer of what’s going on.”

How this would translate into a metric that could be scaled by the broader population at large would be the challenging part. There would be humps to get over from a digital perspective, because any time a fresh form of measurement is instated, “it’s hard to do apples to apples comparison,” Baehr said. This could potentially complicate any third-party progress made by an OCR or vCE, for instance.

Amazon’s entrance into video advertising

Google is not the only mega-publisher mulling consumers’ changing media consumption habits. Last week, ecommerce giant Amazon revealed more details around its wade into the video advertising pool, as first reported by Re/code’s Jason Del Rey.

Video technology and services company FreeWheel is working with Amazon to power video ad units on-site. FreeWheel, which has inked deals with many major media companies such as Viacom and ESPN, could feasibly open Amazon’s doors to a much broader media and content network.

“[It’s] very early days for [Amazon] in video,” said Lisa Utzschneider, VP of global advertising for Amazon Media Group. “Today we’re primarily focused on a couple of things. The first is using more video into our ecommerce ad units.”

For example, a customer can view a short product video and read customer review excerpts or add a product to their shopping cart, all from within the ad unit, Utzschneider explained.

The second focus, she said, is integrating advertising with Amazon’s growing selection of short-form content – game trailers, movie trailers, how-to videos, etc.  These videos are surfaced in relevant search results, and can include a short pre-roll or an ecommerce ad overlay that links customers directly to a product detail page.

The purpose of Amazon marketer discussions right now is to “enable marketers to integrate with our video content – in the right ways – [to help] customers discover and learn more about products, while helping brands showcase their products in new ways that can drive deeper customer engagement.”

Although Amazon did not comment on its plans for measurement, Amazon Media Group certified on Nielsen OCR late last year, according to Vik Kathuria, global head of the digital investment group and corporate strategy at agency Mediacom and GroupM.

“Whether Amazon uses FreeWheel’s ad server integration or not, Amazon allows advertisers to use OCR to measure their specific campaigns,” he said. “I think FreeWheel’s integration provides Amazon with standard OCR measurement for all the campaigns they run on their ad server.”

Advertisers want single-source OCR measurement across their whole video buy for a holistic view, he added, which is why Amazon certified OCR for its ad products, including its demand-side platform (DSP) Amazon Advertising Platform (AAP).

At present, it is not wholly clear how Amazon will approach supply. “Will video viewed through Amazon Prime or on Kindles now become ad-supported and how aggressively?” Brian Wieser, senior Internet research analyst for Pivotal Research Group, wondered in a research note. Conversely, on the demand side, the question is: “How aggressively will Amazon sell this inventory and how competitive [will its] pricing be?”

Online video inventory spend will not necessarily come at the expense of TV budget, but is frequently viewed by large brands as a supplement to existing budget allocations.

“Toward this end, we think that most of the growth of online video to date has occurred because of shifts of budgets from conventional display and rich media towards video assets,” Wieser wrote.

There are still unanswered questions about the integration with FreeWheel, namely, “What inventory will they be able to sell against?” Nitti added. “Unless they go the content creation route … how do they draw an audience outside of Prime? [With regard to] FreeWheel, while that is helpful for them to centralize on one system, it’s blind to the Agency and Marketer side.”


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1 Comment

  1. Here’s the rub… all of these improvements to digital video research are insignificant until they allow the industry to improve PREDICTIVE modeling for demographic target audiences.

    “Regardless of platform, advertisers need a way to post on audience guarantees,” according to John Nitti, president of activation for media services network ZenithOptimedia.

    That quote from this article nails the industry’s dilemma. As TV tips to digital video, marketers and the gate-keepers responsible for TV buying expect demographic audience CPM guarantees. Fair enough.

    However, in TV, “wasted” TV impressions outside the demographic do not generate revenue but they don’t cost anything either. In streaming media, there are fixed costs for serving a video ad regardless of the after-the-fact determination by Nielsen or comScore as to whether or not the demo target was “hit” by that ad impression.

    We know how to optimize digital advertising. We should, in theory, be able to use technology to dramatically improve the audience composition of a media buy to the point where 95% of the ad impressions fall against the right target audience. But, so far, Nielsen and comScore do not offer a solution for tagging IP addresses so that digital buying technologies can “learn” to deliver ads against the right target audience that aligns with the database that will be used for the post-analysis.

    Since we cannot optimize with the predictive modeling technologies that work so effectively for behavioral targeting, digital video campaigns struggle to improve the composition of a campaign’s demographics more than a few degrees higher than their incidence in the population. The technology exists to do this but the research gatekeepers appear to be unwilling or unable to close this gap.

    We can dramatically improve a campaigns ability to target women who are about to buy a minivan but we can’t improve our targeting against W18-49. When campaigns are required to guarantee the CPM against a target like W18-49 but they only deliver a 60% composition against that target, the real costs for the other 40% of the campaign impressions undermine the whole business model that all parties are seeking.

    So, we should applaud these ground breaking steps forward with digital research for video but until we can use these tools for PREDICTIVE modeling, our hand clapping rings hollow.