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Networks Build MultiplatformSales With Custom Metrics | @jlafayette

While there is no industry-accepted standard for measuring multiplatform advertising, some networks are doing a brisk business in it anyway.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and some metrics have been designed to plan and evaluate campaigns while others are being used as currency for transacting business.

Jeff Lucas, head of sales for Viacom’s entertainment networks, says putting together multi-network, multiplatform campaigns for clients is the most important part of business and will continue to grow. The deals often include customized content and must also involve customized research because no good way exists to really measure cross-platform campaigns.

“You could put the best customized content on the air or across multiple platforms, and if you don’t have an agreed-upon KPI [Key Performance Indicators] ahead of time for customized research solutions on each of those platforms before you strike the deal you will not be successful,” Lucas says. The research has to be customized because each client has its own set of goals; Viacom works with many research vendors to get the data they need.

At ESPN, 75% of the deals it does worth more than $2 million involve more than one platform, according to Tricia Betron, senior VP, multimedia sales.

ESPN uses a number of different research tools to plan multiplatform campaigns. “Once we sell an advertiser the package and the reasons why we’re recommending this combination of screens, then each individual screen is transacted on the best currency and the currency that’s used by the marketplace,” Betron says.

With DVRs, VOD and online viewing cutting into traditional ratings, the broadcast networks are scrambling to count alternative viewing in a manner that corresponds to the way TV buyers do business and allows them to monetize those digital eyeballs.

With its young audience, The CW was forced to move early and three years ago began selling ads in convergence packages made up of broadcast spots and commercials online on computers. A key hurdle was that while The CW’s TV ads were sold based on demos, online ratings just measured viewers 2 years old and up.

“We took our Nielsen Video Census demographic information and applied it to the people 2+ [online] giving us demo impressions,” says Rob Tuck, executive VP for ad sales at The CW. “We were able to get ourselves to the point with the agencies where the impressions on the digital platform were demo-specific, the impressions on the TV platform were demo-specific, and we were able to pull the two together and create one deal across the different platforms.”

At this point, nearly all of The CW’s clients are buying TV and a digital package, Tuck says, and the digital impressions account for 15% to 20% of its total. CW is applying the same technique to viewing on tablets, Xbox and Apple TV. It’s also getting even better data as a subscriber to Nielsen’s Online Campaign Ratings (OCR) service. Tuck says the network is ready for whatever comes next.

At its upfront the past two years, ABC has been touting its ability to sell TV and digital together. With online viewing representing 10% of ABC primetime viewership, ABC is using a combination of C3 TV ratings and OCR data to solve the cross-platform measurement gap, according to Adam Gerber, VP, sales development and marketing.

“Adoption of the ABC Unified offering is increasing rapidly,” Gerber says. “Our measurement discussions with clients and agencies have been very productive. They understand the challenge and recognize that it is best to focus on what’s possible, and not what’s perfect.”

ABC is currently evaluating OCR’s measurement of app-based viewing on tablets and smartphones, as well as comScore’s vCE multiplatform measurement. “We aren’t stopping. We’re pushing forward,” Gerber said.

While networks have been able to come up with good estimates for delivery, there is still some information that’s tough to come by. “The market—the advertisers and their agencies—are not requiring or requesting as much in terms of knowing unduplicated reach and frequency,” says Howard Shimmel, senior VP, advertising sales and sports research for Turner Broadcasting. “There’s not really a great way from a sales planning or an agency planning standpoint to estimate unduplicated reach and frequency of a TV, digital and mobile campaign right now.”

Despite that, more networks are getting into the game. During the upfront, the Fox Cable Entertainment Group launched FX Now, which looks to monetize the nonlinear viewing for its original programs and movies in part by counting digital impressions with the first three days of air as part of the overall ad buy. “Comfort with the measurement varies across the platforms, and as such you have to be adaptable and flexible,” says Bruce Lefkowitz, executive VP of ad sales for the group. “I’m pretty confident in the product. And the way we’re selling it now will be very different in 12 to 18 months.”

Since September, ESPN has been working with Nielsen and comScore on Project Blueprint, a five-platform measurement system. The first results showed that by adding ESPN’s digital properties to its TV, advertisers picked up 23% in additional reach among men in a week. “It’s not just incremental reach, it’s incremental effectiveness,” says Barbara Singer, ESPN VP advertiser insights and research.

Singer says ESPN has started to talk about Project Blueprint with media agencies, with an eye toward having the industry take it over. “It answers so many of the questions people have,” she says.