Why Mobile Video Is Driving the Push for Cross-Platform Measurement

Nielsen's Megan Clarken Talks Cross-Platform Measurement and GRPs

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Megan Clarken, Nielsen
Megan Clarken, Nielsen

Nielsen tracked mobile video viewing behavior late last year and found consumers watched 25% more of it than the year before. Ooyala is seeing the shift, too. The video management firm reported recently that 26% of videos viewed in December 2013 were seen on mobile devices.

No surprise there. But advertisers and broadcasters are still trying to figure out how to measure those mobile views comparably with television, a feat that has so far has vexed marketers.

Nielsen is pushing hard to get the industry there. The company plans to combine mobile video views with its television ratings this fall, following the addition of mobile views to its Online Campaign Ratings this summer. To enable the technology, publishers and broadcasters must add Nielsen's software to their video properties, which allows for direct measurement.

The ratings firm tested its cross-platform measurement system during the Sochi Olympics, measuring video viewership of the games with partner NBCUniversal. The goal, of course, is to help TV and video firms understand their video audiences, and prove to advertisers that people are watching and worth paying for.

"To date, they can't sell against it, so they're leaving money on the table," said Nielsen exec-VP Megan Clarken, who helped lead the company's development of the new system.

Advertising Age talked cross-platform measurement and its challenges recently with Ms. Clarken.

Ad Age: How do you define cross-media measurement?

Ms. Clarken: That's a great question. "Cross-platform" is one of the most over-used and least-understood phrases in advertising today.

At Nielsen, we look at "cross-platform" as multi-layered -- not just about measuring consumption on devices. Anyone can measure across screens, but that doesn't solve the big business challenges. We think about cross-platform in four distinct layers: device type, PC or Mac, tablet or smartphone; by content type, whether audio, video or static; by delivery method, such as broadcast, Web browser, mobile app or over-the-top; and finally, by ad model, linear or dynamic.

Ad Age: Marketers have been talking about the need for a digital video GRP standard for years and years. What's the holdup?

Ms. Clarken: That's true. If you are looking at a true cross-platform universe, there has to be a metric like the GRP. Everyone would agree that television is not going anywhere anytime soon, and that cross-platform measurement is important. But it's also complicated and really hard to do.

We have proven there are ways to come up with a GRP that is comparable across television and digital platforms. When it comes to cross-platform measurement, we believe there are six things that are critical to get right: The right digital data; a common, single source, highly representative panel; true comparability to TV, mobile measurement (particularly in-app measurement); viewability; and accreditation and constant auditing.

Ad Age: What's happening in the industry that is driving momentum behind your cross-platform GRP approach?

Ms. Clarken: Looking back at the Upfronts and Newfronts that just happened, we saw that everyone talked about video content and ads in the context of cross-platform. Digital publishers were thinking about how they stacked up against TV. They know that's what they need to compete for the same ad dollars. TV networks talked up their cross-screen reach. And, they want assurance that they'll get credit for views from the industry standard ratings. Behind the scenes, advertisers talked about the need for accountability in digital -- and, more to the point, accountability metrics that align with TV.

Ad Age: It seems that the massive adoption of mobile consumption of video has facilitated a lot of what Nielsen is doing on the measurement front. Would you agree? If so, why is mobile the driver?

Ms. Clarken: Mobile is definitely a game-changer. Over the last few years, we've seen broadcasters make more of their content available to consumers online and through their own branded apps. The cable and satellite TV companies have started delivering apps that effectively turn tablets into additional TV screens. And, consumers are watching more video on their smartphones -- 25 percent more in Q4 2013 than the year prior according to actual behavior captured with our mobile on-device meter.

Ad dollars are following the eyeballs. We need to be ready to measure all of this so our clients can monetize it. This is definitely pushing us, and is the impetus behind us rolling out both linear mobile measurement and dynamic mobile measurement this year.

Ad Age: Surely challenges remain, though. Can you discuss the key obstacles that are holding back true cross-platform measurement?

Ms. Clarken: This is an exciting time for the industry, and my team and I have a real sense of pride in playing a role in that. But, absolutely, challenges remain. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the challenges facing cross-platform won't be solved overnight. There are so many dynamics involved, from the speed at which media companies deliver content across screens to uncertainty from buyers and sellers around the impact of cross-platform ratings to the difficulty of measuring mobile devices at scale while ensuring the protection of privacy. Not to mention integration of cross-platform ratings into existing workflows at the broadcasters and trading desks to make them truly actionable. Each of these challenges requires close collaboration with our clients and constituents, which we have done and will continue to do each step of the way.

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