Nielsen Hatches New Methodology For Cookieless Future

Nielsen Digital Methodology
Nielsen plans to overhaul its digital measurement methodology to prepare for a future without cookies or mobile ad IDs. The first phase of the overhaul will happen in early 2021, with more stages to follow.

Because its product is used as currency in some global markets, the measurement company is giving its customers a heads up several months before the initial rollout happens.

The new methodology also aims to take a more privacy-centric approach and comply with new regs such as the CCPA, by using tactics including differential privacy.

“We want to make sure it doesn’t matter how the mobile ad ID world evolves,” said Nielsen Chief Data and Research Officer Mainak Mazumdar. “We are building our own proprietary panel-based signals and systems that will allow us to measure everything going forward.”

Today, Nielsen uses a combination of panels and tags and cookies for its digital measurement products, which include Digital Content Ratings, Total Content Ratings, Digital in TV Ratings, Digital Ad Ratings and Total Ad Ratings.

Nielsen’s new methodology will rely on partnerships to replace cookies and IDs. So the first-party data assets of big-name walled gardens, platforms, publishers, and other partners will power Nielsen’s third-party, independent measurement.

Mazumdar claimed these platforms and publishers want to partner with Nielsen, because it independently measures media.

Nielsen is building a platform that can house and analyze all that data in a way that’s also privacy-focused. It will use differential privacy techniques, for example, to enable deduplication of people consuming content in different places.

Nielsen didn’t provide specifics, but said more details would come as it progresses toward building out the platform.

“We will work with multiple parties in a significant way, which we did not in the past, and build those signals into the mix of the methodology to be a truly, truly cross-platform measurement company,” Mazumdar said.

Nielsen isn’t going to abandon the cookie preemptively.

“One of the main goals is to make sure we continue to deliver our current metrics into the marketplace,” Mazumdar said. “We have scenarios where we will continue to use what’s available, but when they become less and less reliable, we can bring in other data sets, methodologies and techniques to still be able to deliver that measurement.”

Since some global markets use Nielsen’s digital measurement as currency, the rollout of the new methodology will happen in phases. And some of the groundwork has already been laid by Nielsen’s recent overhaul of local TV ratings, Mazumdar said. The new local TV ratings takes a similar approach in combining panels with more broadly available measurement (in local TV’s case, from set-top boxes).

In overhauling its digital methodology for a world without cookies and stricter privacy rules, Nielsen has two other goals: faster measurement and higher-quality data. “We want to deliver what we have for the past 15 to 20 years, but in a faster and more efficient way, with easier access to data sets,” Mazumdar said.

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  1. Question regarding the following statement: “So the first-party data assets of big-name walled gardens, platforms, publishers, and other partners will power Nielsen’s third-party, independent measurement.”

    How are the so-called “big-name walled gardens” going to share their first-party data with Nielsen without direct consent from the user? The above all falls apart without direct and explicit consent being provided by the user. I’m hopefully missing something and look forward to the response.

  2. While this sounds like an important – and necessary – change for Nielsen’s measurement and reporting methodology, strongly agree that somewhere, somehow visitor/user consent for inclusion in such reporting. Otherwise it doesn’t sound much different than current “cookie’d” system measurement. Makes for a good press release though, especially that phrase “tactics like *differential privacy*”, which just begs for the modifier “proprietary”…and we were not disappointed!

  3. Jack Wakshlag

    Nielsen’s panels are large opt in panels. To my knowledge, others don’t use large opt in panels recruited and designed to represent the market and represent minority and protected groups like Nielsen.