MBPT Spotlight: Nielsen Report—Advertisers Need to Work Harder to Master Integrated Cross-Platform Marketing

A recent report by Nielsen says most advertisers running integrated cross-platform marketing campaigns are getting results that are not much better than if they had run separate campaigns on television and online.

The report, written by Randall Beard, Nielsen’s global head of advertiser solutions, and by Chris Louie, VP of product leadership, says marketers are receiving a lower return on their investment than they should for integrated marketing campaigns. They add that for now, “the relative amount of money poorly invested is small, but it’s only a matter of time before the stakes are higher yet.”

Currently, they say, the amount of online and mobile video watching is still relatively low compared to traditional TV, so there is still a window of opportunity for marketers to learn how to properly put together integrated cross-platform campaigns that will eventually help them gain “a significant competitive edge.”

In fourth quarter 2013, the average TV viewer spent 169 hours, 59 minutes per month watching content on a TV set, compared to 8 hours, 57 minutes on the Internet or smartphone.

The report says there is a way for a typical marketing campaign using today’s cross-platform planning, buying, measurement and optimization tools to drive up reach by 8% without changing either the campaign’s total spend or its mix of spending beyond how carefully it identifies its desired audience on TV and online.

“Nielsen research shows that ads with both TV and online consumer exposure generally achieve higher levels of next-day recall than ads with TV-only exposure or online-only exposure, even at the same frequency of exposure,” the report says. “So, in order to gauge the value of online advertising, it is essential to be able to measure all three results—duplicated reach, unduplicated reach and incremental reach.”

Nielsen looked at 45 cross-platform campaigns. The average TV reach of those campaigns was 61.2% (meaning 61.2% of the intended audience was exposed once or more to the campaign on TV). The average reach online was 11.4%. The average duplication was 7.6%, meaning that percentage of the intended audience saw ads on both TV and online. If the campaigns were created independently to achieve those same reach percentages, Nielsen found the average duplication would be 7%.

“It’s alarming that the average audience overlap for planned cross-platform campaigns is hardly different from the independently produced planned campaigns,” the report states.

In a zap at media agencies, Nielsen says one of the reasons integrated campaigns are doing so poorly is that most people doing the planning and buying of those campaigns are incumbents from existing TV divisions who “are almost never up to speed” about online. The other reason the campaigns are not more successful than advertising bought independently on each platform is that there is not a standard metric for integrated cross-platform measurement.

So how do marketers get their integrated cross-platform campaigns right? Nielsen of course then touts its own Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings as a way to improve effectiveness, and the report turns into a bit of a commercial for its own service. It does offer some case studies that show how integrated campaigns using the Nielsen online data can increase reach and pick up incremental impressions in addition to TV.

But the touting of its own online data measurement aside, the report is sort of a call to arms to marketers that cross-platform ad campaigns are the future and there is a need to keep working both internally and with their media agencies to come up with more efficient and effective ways to reach consumers across all platforms.

The main message to marketers: “As digital video grows, the stakes will get higher, so companies should move quickly to master the ability to claim the full synergies available between media.”