Nielsen EVP Paparo Driving Accuracy, Cross-Channel Metrics And Ad Effectiveness Themes In His New Role

NielsenAri Paparo, EVP, Product Leadership at Nielsen, a media research and measurement firm, recently discussed with his new role, Nielsen’s initiatives in the digital space and his experience as an advertising product leader at Google.  Tell us about your new role and its responsibilities.

AP: I’m in charge of online audience measurement and ad effectiveness at Nielsen. I’m particularly excited about the ability to help marketers, advertisers and media companies measure online and digital media across channels and across user behavior. I think that the proliferation of devices and the proliferation of ways in which consumers interact with media is causing some really exciting opportunities, but also some really significant measurement challenges.

What would you say are some of those measurement challenges, in particular?

Being able to measure audience across devices, in particular. Three‑screen: TV, PC and phone. And now, four‑screen with the iPad and tablets, etc. Being able to figure out who you reached and the value of the media that you bought – or the value of the media you sold – is incredibly challenging.

Why did you leave Google?

Well, I love Google. I use Gmail. I miss Gmail for work. I was working on DoubleClick products for roughly six years. I certainly had a good amount of experience on the online audience measurement problem. And I felt that the position at Nielsen is what lets me explore some of the challenges I’ve been talking about and deliver solutions that are uniquely available to companies focused on market research.

What are one or two key learnings that you’ll be bringing from Google to your role at Nielsen?

First off, free food is highly motivational. Yeah, you never get tired of free food.

I think that the key is to keep things simple. In this stage, it’s very easy to make things complicated because they are complicated. But successful product management, be it new measurement products, new ad serving products, whatever you’re trying to develop, keeping the benefit clean, crisp, precise and easy to understand is really a factor in success. Hopefully from my experience at Google, I’ll be helping here at Nielsen in rolling out new products that are immediately understandable and valuable to the consumer.

Considering Nielsen’s many business units, where do you begin in creating a product strategy?

There are three driving themes I’m looking at.

One is, simply measuring online more accurately. Nielsen’s online division has a great history of measuring online audience and we’re looking to continue to invest in that and to move ahead with the market as online buying becomes more complicated.

Secondly, as I mentioned before, figuring out how to create meaningful metrics across as many screens and devices that consumers are using. That’s a challenge that cuts across many groups at Nielsen and is of key importance to our customers.

Then finally, there’s ad effectiveness. We see ad effectiveness as an area for innovation in the marketplace. And we think through our products that we’ve announced, like BrandLift, which is part of our work with Facebook, our IAG products which are leaders in the television ad effectiveness space, as well as other innovative work we’re doing that will be able to provide better insights about how marketers’ dollars are actually being spent and the value of that spend.

Let’s talk about the online GRP. Why is Nielsen creating it? And, is that something you’re going to be directly involved in building out that technology, that model?

Yes, this is one of my key initiatives. We hear over and over again that brand advertisers are held back from spending money online because of, among other things, the metrics. Brand advertisers don’t feel that online metrics meet their needs in terms of planning, measurement, effectiveness, etc. So we looked at online measurement and saw that the traditional currency is impressions from the ad serving companies – and that’s really not what drives a brand plan. The brand advertisers want to know who they reached in terms of the audience, the demographics, and so on. Nielsen is building this online GRP product in order to satisfy that need and to deliver television‑compatible metrics from the online environment.

How do you define the online GRP or gross rating point?

Online GRP is actually a bit of a misnomer. What we’re delivering is reach and frequency by demographic segments.

Then how are those data sets collected and inform the online GRP metric?

The unique aspect to this program is that we’re using a combination of the Nielsen Online Panel, census data collection through a pixel, and a group of publishers who are supplying registration data in an anonymous fashion to help calibrate our panel data.

How is the online GRP different from the GRP used in television?

We define them primarily to be comparable and compatible, but there are some differences. In online, we’re measuring the ad’s reach and frequency, whereas in television, using the commercial minute ratings, we’re tied to the program averages.

What do you think some of the technical hurtles of creating this online GRP system are?

This is a pretty massive undertaking. We’re investing quite a bit in this program and this technology. But, we see enormous amount of demand, especially on the marketer and advertiser’s side. We are optimistic that we will see fairly wide adoption as we move forward with this program.

What’s the roll‑out plan for the online GRP?

First, we’re testing this with select publisher and advertiser clients now, and expect to continue testing with a broader set of participants within the next several quarters. We hope to have it generally available by mid‑2011.

When do you envision the online GRP affecting digital ad spend budgets appreciably?

It’s hard to predict, but I will say that’s the ultimate goal of this program. We really think we’re bringing new dollars online and potentially new dollars to advertising in general.

Any predictions for 2011?

I think that we’re going to see more brand advertising online in general, bigger ad units, which is part of that. We’re also going to see more video adoption, both on the advertiser and publisher side. Videos have been growing like crazy, but still underachieving versus its potential in online. A lot of that hopefully will be driven by operational and measurement efficiency. Then finally, mobile advertising is certainly going to be a big story.

Finally, should we think of Nielsen as a measurement company, a technology company? How would you define it – or how do you define the part that you are in particular control of from a product standpoint?

Well, the strategy for the whole company is pretty simple: we divide the business into watch and buy: what do people watch and what do people buy? It crosses channels, geographies and products. That’s how we define what we do and why we get up every day. Technology is an important enabler and part of the company’s tradition as well. But I’d be hesitant to classify us as one, or the other, or something else. We’re just trying to answer our client’s needs along those dimensions.

Follow Ari Paparo (@aripap), Nielsen Wire (@NielsenWire) and (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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