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WarnerMedia Testing New Currencies With Media Buyer IPG Mediabrands

A pile of money
(Image credit: Chris Clor via Getty Images)

WarnerMedia has enlisted ad buying giant IPG Mediabrands' Magna unit to help it test alternative measurement data from Comscore, iSpot.TV and VideoAmp during the second quarter ahead of the upfront.

TV measurement leader Nielsen took its lumps in 2022, as it was found to have undercounted audiences during  the pandemic and the Media Rating Council pulled its accreditation from Nielsen’s national ratings service. 

That opened a window of opportunity for would-be Nielsen alternatives as networks and media buyers started looking more seriously at using their data as currency for buying and selling ads.

NBCUniversal put out requests for proposals for measurement companies and got about 120 responses. It recently identified an early group of companies it intended to work with, including iSpot. NBCU and ad agency Publicis ran a test of iSpot during the first quarter, measuring commercials in big-ticket programming including the Olympics and Super Bowl . 

Also: NBCU Recognizes More Measurement Companies as Nielsen Alternatives

In January, WarnerMedia announced that it would work with Comscore, iSpot and VideoAmp. Discovery and Paramount are among those making similar moves.

During March Madness, televised by WarnerMedia’s Turner Sports, along with Paramount’s CBS Sports, WarnerMedia and Paramount worked together to test and learn how Comscore, iSpot and VideoAmp’s measurement systems would perform during that big event.

All of this activity is taking place as the clock ticks down to the upfront market. The clock is also ticking on WarnerMedia being acquired by Discovery.

Also: Ad Industry Seeks Alternatives After Nielsen Loses Seal of Approval

“Gearing up for the 2022 Upfront, we have been committed to developing a more expansive portfolio of measurement solutions for our clients and partners,” said JP Colaco, president of advertising sales at WarnerMedia. “This test-and-learn with Magna is one of the first steps in actionizing on our goal to offer best in class measurement capabilities and provide greater visibility into return on ad spend across our award-winning IP.”

WarnerMedia and IPG will be implementing alternative measurement across select product categories and advertisers to evaluate the application of currencies that use big data to estimate audiences. 

“The shift to cross-screen, impression-based video transactions is imminent, so we are keen to see these measurement solutions in action and understand how this paradigm shift can create new value for our clients,” said Brian Hughes, executive VP and managing director, audience intelligence & strategy at Magna.

Magna is also testing an early version of Nielsen's new system for measuring commercials, Nielsen One for Advertisers, along with The Walt Disney Co.

“This is an incredibly important moment in time in media and the initiative between WarnerMedia and IPG Mediabrands is proof that the industry needs not only accurate and reliable cross-platform measurement but a solution that can be trusted enough to underpin transactions across the entire media ecosystem,” said Bryan Goski, VP, enterprise solutions, VideoAmp. 

“VideoAmp is excited to work collaboratively across these two storied brands on this unprecedented opportunity. In doing so, we think our currency-grade data can help bring value to buyers and sellers of media and drive efficiencies that ultimately create a better media experience for consumers,” Goski said.

WarnerMedia said this will be the first of several anticipated trials and aims to provide the foundation for more informed media planning and buying, and figures out how to deduplicate in order to calculate campaign reach and frequency across linear and CTV. 

Andrea Zapata, the head of research, data and insights who is running the text for WarnerMedia, said that neither the company nor the media buyers it works with want to hurry into using new data from alternative measurement companies because the ad revenue stakes are so high.

"There has been sort of a rush to say we're going to transact or we're going to select one partner over another,” she told Broadcasting+Cable. “We’ve found it important, and the agencies we were with were also very clear, they don’t necessarily want to jump in with one provider. They don’t know what they don’t know. And in fairness, here at WarnerMedia, we don’t know either.”

Zapata said that test will be aimed at measuring campaigns aimed at targeted audiences, rather than traditional demographics. 

She added that it has taken a while to find a media buying partner eager to be a part of the test, but that Mediabrands has been a long-standing user of WarnerMedia’s Audience Now ad targeting system.

The test-and-learn program began with ad campaigns that launched March 28. WarnerMedia and Magna plan to do a mid-campaign analysis and a post-campaign analysis to see what kind of data they’re getting from the new measurement companies.

WarnerMedia is unlikely to pick a single provider for this upfront or going forward, Zapata said. Nielsen is in the mix also, even though it’s not involved in this test-and-learn focus because buyers and sellers are already very familiar with what Nielsen currently produces.

“Their data has been flowing through our pipe since the beginning of time,” she said. “It has the only measurement and currency that has been literally running through our stewardship systems, determining how we create our estimates and how we go to market and ultimately how the upfronts are negotiated, and we know where the shortcomings are and we know where the gaps are.”

The new measurement companies say they can fill those gaps. The tests will show how well they do that.

Ultimately, WarnerMedia plans to share the results from its tests with the industry in order to help develop a standard.

‘We're going to do an aggregate learning and we'll share it back to the marketplace and we'll share it back to our agencies and we'll tweak from there,” Zapata said. “ But this is not a one-and-done. This is an iterative process.” ■

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.