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TV Audience Measurement: Takeaways from ARF’s AudiencexScience 2018

July 26th, 2018   ||    by Charlene Weisler   ||    No Comments

The annual Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF) AudiencexScience conference is a must-attend for anyone in the media, research, data, and advertising industries, and especially those interested in TV audience measurement. This year, the agenda was stacked—industry players covered the transition of short-form ads from digital-only platforms to TV, as well as issues of privacy, especially in the wake of the recent GDPR legislation—but here, we’re going to focus on cross-platform measurement strides and challenges.

Arguably one of the most vexing problems in standardizing cross-platform measurement is the lack of consensus on what the metrics and edit rules should be. Should the industry retain age and gender as the basic metric? And, if so, how does that reconcile across platforms?

Chris Squire, senior director of product management at Samba TV, explained that “a digital impression doesn’t mean the same thing as TV-based impressions. There needs to be distinct frequency reporting and a common definition for impressions,” to then be able to measure across platforms, he said.

Yet, maybe impressions no longer apply. Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships at NBCUniversal, believes the time has come to challenge age/gender legacy metrics. “We are in the outcomes business. All bets are off as it relates to legacy,” she stated. “If anyone can get it right it should be Nielsen,” she added, but it may not be one single commonly accepted measurement. “The days of a single currency proving impact is not the way the industry is going to go,” she concluded. For ARF CEO and President Scott McDonald, “the real currency is attention and emotion.” But how do we best measure that?

“Quality is important and quality comes at a premium,” stated Megan Clarken, president of Nielsen Watch. “We do the best we can. We can go cheaper but, like eating cheap sushi, at the end of the day you might go a little green.”

Jonathan Steuer, chief research officer at Omnicom, has been advocating for the media industry to take a page from the food industry and enforce ingredient labeling for measurement. The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement has taken on the task to find a voluntary labeling standard and scalable tool to assess commercial targeting.

As an industry, we still seem to be trying to find the best form of TV audience measurement in a landscape that is constantly shifting. But what media professionals are finding is that there is no more business-as-usual.

Despite the uncertainty and stress, there also appears to be much more collaboration, creative research, and astute insights into what makes consumers tick. How this ultimately standardizes for content creators and brands will continue to be a primary focus. Who knows what next year’s AudiencexScience conference will reveal?

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