Where Did My Ad Run? New Effort Attempts to Find Out

Coalition of Media, Agencies, Marketers Pushes to Track Content in Digital World

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A group of major media companies and advertisers wants to find a way to identify content whenever and wherever it runs.

The group, Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, was formed last fall to develop a system for measuring audiences across TV, the web, mobile phones and whatever other platforms might pop up in coming years. But a single system to identify content would make gauging its audiences much, much easier.

Right now commercials typically have a code embedded with them that can be tracked by software programs as they run. Yet these systems usually don't work universally. The coalition's new initiative, dubbed Project: Taxi, aims to study the feasibility of tracking both content and commercials as they run on the many different media venues available in today's marketplace.

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The project "may seem kind of wonky, but it really is about fixing the plumbing of the media and advertising industry," said Jane Clarke, managing director at CIMM, as the coalition is known. "Currently the plumbing is very inefficient and needs replacement. Every media company has their own system for tracking content."

Tracking content without a universal standard "makes cross-media measurement so much harder," Ms. Clarke said. "What you have to do is cobble together and combine all of these different systems with different proprietary codes."

CIMM has asked Ernst & Young to meet with industry trade organizations and commercial entities involved in content identification, tracking and measurement. Ernst & Young will conduct 30 to 40 one-on-one interviews and small group workshops with industry executives about what's needed to create a uniform method to track media assets across TV, broadband and mobile platforms.

Better tracking can benefit any number of parties, said Ekta Singh, a partner in Ernst & Young's media and entertainment advisory service who will oversee Project: Taxi for the firm. Advertisers and media buyers will know more about which audiences they reached, how they did it and when; media researchers will have better data to analyze; and media sellers will be better positioned to seek compensation for ads viewed beyond traditional commercial breaks.

The coalition anticipates being in a position to evaluate results with its members in early 2011 and to present its findings to the industry shortly thereafter.

CIMM was formed last year after its backers decided that marketers could no longer rely solely on Nielsen's traditional TV ratings to gauge their campaigns. Participants in the group include AT&T, Belo, CBS Corp., Aegis Group's Carat USA, Comcast's Comcast Networks, Discovery Communications, Gannett, WPP's GroupM, Hearst, Interpublic Group's Mediabrands, Microsoft, NBC Universal, News Corp., Omnicom Group's Omnicom Media Group, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, ConAgra, Publicis Groupe, Time Warner, Unilever, Viacom and Walt Disney Co.

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