Skip to main content

Ad Metrics Are Still Behind the Curve

NEW YORK — Content consumption measurement is off by a mile, suggested GroupM chairman Irwin Gotlieb, but the pending marriage of Rentrak and comScore should help provide a better read on who’s watching what, and on what device.

Gotlieb, interviewed by Broadcasting & Cable business editor Jon Lafayette as part of the Advanced Advertising Summit, said the fact that Nielsen still measures much of the country with paper diaries is “a little bit of a joke,” and expressed hope that the merger, announced Sept. 29, will either create a viable cross-platform measurement machine or spark Nielsen to upgrade its operations. Nielsen is expected to release its “Total Audience Measurement” system in the first quarter next year.

“There’s starting to be a pretty bright light at the end of the tunnel,” Gotlieb said.

Inaccurate measurement likely caused advertisers and marketers to overspend on the digital side, Gotlieb asserted, adding that between one-third and two-thirds of the current advertising downturn may be attributed to a failure to fully count cross-device usage.

“A medium can be seriously damaged if the measurement has flaws in it,” he said.

Prompted about the upfront market, Gotlieb said that convention of the TV business is a “very poor indicator” of the industry’s health. A robust upfront means weak scatter, he said, while a lukewarm upfront is made up for with a robust scatter.

“It’s a zero-sum game,” he said. Gotlieb nudged the industry to get past its “Ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ways and work harder on targeted advertising.

“There are enormous incremental revenue opportunities,” he said.

In another panel discussion, Linda Yaccarino, chairman of ad sales and client partnerships at NBCU, said bluntly: “Television has to got get better at measurement.”

Yaccarino estimated that 15%, and perhaps up to 30%, of television viewing is currently unmeasured.“We’ve got to capture viewing on the screen in the living room, on the screen in your lap, or the screen in your phone,” she said. “It’s a situation that must be fixed. It’s an acute situation, and we’re doing everything we can.”

That includes talking with other programmers as well as other pay TV providers about how they can all come together to find common ground. “We have to get to a place where there’s a uniform currency,” Yaccarino said. “We’ve got to come together and coalesce as an industry to get our act together and get measurement better as quickly as possible.”

Yaccarino also discussed the growth of programmatic advertising, which brings more automated, digital-style methods to the TV ad buying process.

“We’re truly out of capacity for that product,” she said. “There seems to be more demand than supply for that product.”

But Yaccarino also acknowledged that programmatic, as a contributor to the overall $10 billion-plus in ad revenue NBCU will generate this year, is “small in comparison.”

One way NBCU is trying to get a better fix on measurement and viewing trends is by mining Comcast’s set-top box data. Yaccarino said data from Comcast’s set-top box footprint powers NBCU’s data tools in ways that can underpin the programmer’s audience- targeting platform.

“It’s a pretty unprecedented amount of data,” Yaccarino said. “Then you have something pretty compelling for marketers to respond to, to really target their ads across what is virtually … 25% of the viewing population across all of the NBCUniversal networks.”

Having that kind of data available on a broader basis would “improve television measurement overall,” she said.

NBCU, she confirmed, recently came to terms with YouTube on a “very expansive partnership” that includes distribution support for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Michael Malone is programming editor of Broadcasting & Cable.