It is no surprise that technology is radically changing the media industry. More people are consuming video content on platforms other than traditional TV sets, such as computers, smartphones, tablets and over-the-top (OTT) devices. Measuring audiences across these new platforms is critical for both the sell-side and buy-side of the business, and new metrics of success will help better define consumer outcomes from advanced advertising campaigns.
This shift to cross-platform viewing has highlighted the critical need for a common metric that media buyers and sellers can use to seamlessly transact across all platforms. The traditional ratings metric (which is defined as the percentage of various age/gender populations) is quickly migrating to impressions—the actual or projected number noted as (000). Major industry players have announced their move to an impressions-based ad sales model with the hope that this will give media sellers more pricing power, more audience granularity and a frictionless cross-media planning and buying experience. The move to impressions is a natural evolution for local TV groups that have seen audiences migrate to digital and cross-platform viewing and is a step closer to a true, cross-platform apples-to-apples currency.
“Local TV stations offer content to brands and marketers on primary, digital-sub, OTT and yes, even digital channels. It is time to consider all of that viewing in a consistent way, using impressions, so advertisers can mix, match and maximize their local marketing strategies.” —Steve Lanzano, President & CEO, TVB.
Invoking J. R. R. Tolkien's famous “Lord of the Rings” metaphor, we ask ourselves: can this be the one metric that can rule them all?
The answer is, yes, it can. But, we must first ask: how can we define an impression? From an ad measurement context, the definition of impression is well established - it represents measurement of responses from an ad delivery system to an ad request from a user, filtered for invalid traffic and recorded at a point as late as possible in the process of delivery of the creative material to the user's device (MRC 2017). Said succinctly, impressions are individual ad transactions or instances. However, for content measurement in a cross-platform context, there doesn’t exist a well-established definition for impression, one that can accommodate viewing consumption on myriad platforms on equal footing. The starting problem in arriving at such a definition revolves around determining what constitutes an “instance” in content viewership. For example, agnostic to platform, we can define 30 minutes of viewing content to consist of six impressions, with each instance of viewing to be equal to five minutes. Is five minutes of content viewing an optimal threshold in the measurement of content viewership based on the MRC’s definition ? This question is at the heart of the local TV industry shift to impression-based evaluation. We look forward to working with our clients and industry partners in answering this question.
Once the Industry is able to settle on an impression definition for content viewing, Comscore can help the local TV buying and selling ecosystem evaluate media across platforms and make it easier to include local TV in the cross-platform consideration set. Comscore is well-equipped with three pillars of discipline that are crucial for impressions-based application in the local TV measurement space: measurement, optimization, and impact evaluation.
Working in partnership with TV station groups, Comscore has begun measuring local market content on a custom, cross-platform basis. Comscore’s comprehensive, single source, cross-platform measurement footprint (consisting of approximately 30 million linear TV households and over 400 million digital devices, including 5 million households directly measurable on both TV and Digital) allows census-like measurement of local station viewing activity across multiple platforms and devices. This single source asset allows Comscore the capability to directly observe duplication and consumption across TV, desktop and mobile devices, providing insights into total local content consumption by station. With this massive scale of viewing data, Comscore can enable both the measurement and monetization of audience impressions across content on all platforms.
Defining the audience and understanding how many viewers see content with specific frequencies is critical for advertisers seeking to influence consumers’ attitudes and behaviors. When campaigns are siloed by platform, marketers often miss opportunities for holistic, integrated cross-platform insights because they are managing and reporting on each platform independently. The cross-platform approach enables clients to reach a more complete audience, even those who are non- or under-served in traditional TV campaigns, such as digital-only audiences and digital-mostly audiences.
Using the vast trove of campaign data, Comscore can work with clients to build campaign optimization models that can provide powerful insights on best programming schedules, multi-platform promotions, optimal message allocation across all media vehicles and/or addressable geographies.
Understanding how to evaluate campaign impact is critical for achieving the desired impact results to drive business outcomes. Comscore works with clients and third-party processors (TPPs) to ensure the data are available to enable transparent evaluations of media value. While we are developing our proprietary solutions for local cross-platform evaluations, we are also working to evolve the capabilities of the solutions to track and evaluate the impact of local cross-platform exposures in order to measure and evaluate brand impact in cross-platform campaigns. This brand impact evaluation would involve analyzing the effect of various design choices (such as number of platforms, campaign duration, number of placements and target market) on the effectiveness of brand and marketing strategies and implementation.
Industry adoption of impression-based metrics can only accelerate the effective measurement, optimization and evaluation of cross-platform media. With our proven impressions-based expertise in both linear TV, digital measurement, and advanced consumer segments, Comscore is well positioned to help lead our clients and customers through the shift to impressions based evaluation in a manner that maximizes their business success.