LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Advertisers got what they wanted in 2007: They started paying for ads based on ratings for commercial breaks, not the shows the ad interrupted. But they still want more. Since that time, marketers and ad buyers have tinkered with the idea of introducing other, more-granular ad measurements to the mix. As marketers prepare to negotiate with network ad sellers for the upfront, which metrics are ready for prime time and which ones still need to be tweaked? Ad Age checked in with key players and researchers to see what new ideas might be on tap for next season.
Since TV networks began streaming full episodes online in 2006, advertisers and measurement companies alike have been struggling to find ways to measure web TV audiences the same way they do linear TV audiences while still accounting for overlap between platforms. NBC pioneered this trend with its Total Audience Measurement Index, which helped Winter Olympics advertisers measure the reach of their deals during the games, among other programs.
This year, ESPN will go to market with its first major cross-media initiative, ESPN XP, to measure its coverage of the World Cup, which starts June 11. For the first time, advertisers will be able to measure their sponsorships on ESPN's TV, web, radio, print and mobile properties using media-consumption data from multiple vendors that shows which platforms consumers are migrating to and how often. Nielsen Co. will fuse data from its TV, web and smartphone panels, which will then be paired with media behavior data from several other partners for the initiative, including Knowledge Networks, Mediamark Research & Intelligence (MRI), the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative and the Media Behavior Institute.
"No one knows what the duplication across media is for ESPN, so we'll be able to supply that information," said Artie Bulgrin, ESPN's senior VP-research and analytics. "This will give advertisers the information they lack on how to effectively plan a campaign that will give them the most bang for their buck, and measure the impact of that exposure in terms of generating brand awareness across multiple platforms."
Charles Kennedy, ABC's senior VP-research, hopes to apply similar methodology to prime-time programming in the near future. "The idea that you could watch an episode of 'Dancing With the Stars' on the iPad and TV means the level of engagement on each of those devices may be different," he said.
What better way to measure a viewer's engagement with an ad than getting inside their heads -- literally? A&E Networks will become the latest network to experiment with brainwave activity this upfront through a new partnership with NeuroFocus, a company that measures consumers' brainwaves and eyeball movements to determine their recall and emotional engagement with programming and advertising. The partnership represents the most extensive pact NeuroFocus has made with a TV partner to date, with plans to measure A&E ads' relative impact within commercial breaks, against competitive networks and the effectiveness of the creative itself.
Mel Berning, A&E's exec VP-ad sales, hopes the initial research will help prove or expel some of the myths of commercial programming.
"We all have assumptions that the first position in a commercial pod is the better place to be. This will test the attentiveness as measured by actual brainwave activity and also whether the content itself provides a better environment," he said.
But outside of A&E, marketers might not quite be ready to cut deals based on brain-level data.
"I don't know that there's enough of that across the board to be available on an equal footing to make it scalable immediately," said Peter Sedlarcik, senior VP-director of insights at independent media-buying firm TargetCast. "But if there is quantified data that shows my client how much a particular program or network is going to be delivering a superior audience from a size perspective but also from an engagement or impact perspective, we would certainly be open to including that in the negotiation process."
Marketers' ultimate goal is to measure how much product their ads moved at the store. One measurement company, TRA, set out to change that last year through partnerships with CBS, MTV Networks, Discovery Communications, WPP's Group M and Publicis Groupe's MediaVest to marry second-by-second set-top-box viewing data from Tivo with shopper-card data from grocery stores under its Media TRAnalytics platform.
However, TRA data is still limited in scope. Data from grocery and convenience stores may be valuable to MediaVest clients such as Kraft, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, but they're only part of the equation.
"Many of these companies are good at getting sophisticated package-goods data, but we don't have as good information for movies, automotive and financial marketing, which are important categories for us too," said ABC's Mr. Kennedy. "Given the consumers we get from 'Lost' and 'Grey's Anatomy,' a lot of times they're buying the products advertised on these shows on a day-to-day basis. The question we as an industry are asking is, 'Is this data representative of the whole country?'"
Last summer, more than a dozen of the top media companies, media-buying agencies and marketers formed the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement to identify the best practices and potential new standards for media measurement. Jane Clarke, who was appointed CIMM's managing director in January, said one of the committee's first efforts will be to test pilot programs for set-top-box data with potential partners later this summer. CIMM members believe that some TV networks are under-represented by the current Nielsen diaries and sample sizes. "We're all about getting more data. The data right now are not representative of all the cable, telco and satellite homes," Ms. Clarke said. "This can enable unmeasured, highly targeted networks to be measured and provide granularity for smaller networks [that] are not measured. It can also get out-of-home data and second-home viewing data."
David Shiffman, MediaVest's senior VP-connections research and analytics, added that the agency is looking at set-top-box-based companies such as TRA and Rentrak to help redefine "return on investment" in a post-commercial ratings landscape.
"We have a lot more data now where we're able to build brand-specific case studies around true day-part, network-level ROI as well as target audience-based ROI to help us understand where the value of our buys is coming from," he said. "Marketers themselves have multiple databases, so we want to do something different with those and see where those high-value consumers live and track them on an ongoing basis."