The ad industry has a shiny new long-awaited standard for measuring video audiences on equal terms across platforms, but there’s a slight problem. Technology to track people using the standard doesn’t exist yet, as Jane Clarke, CEO of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement sees it.
No problem, according to George Ivie, CEO of the Media Rating Council, which released the new cross-media video standard earlier this month after more than two years of work. The tech to measure viewable digital impressions properly didn’t exist when those standards arrived seven years ago. But the tech eventually caught up with the rules, and Ivie believes the same will happen with cross-media measurement.
The exchange took place at Advertising Week New York on Wednesday in a panel hosted by the 4A's, as executives offered a surprisingly frank mix of realism about the present and optimism for the future.
Facebook, often reviled by advertisers as a walled garden hoarding user data, held out hope it will ultimately share more. But it’s a “team effort” that advertisers should lead, said Brad Smallwood, the social network’s vice president-marketing science. He believes a recently launched initiative by the World Federation of Advertisers could make that happen, and says Facebook has offered its own cryptography technology as a possible solution bridge over walled gardens that makes easier to follow people, anonymously, across media.
That crytography may help, but Ed Gaffney, director of implementation, research and marketplace analytics at WPP’s GroupM, said it may be only one of many solutions.
It’s not just big digital players with walled gardens. More than half of CBS’ revenue now comes from non-advertising-supported content distributed across its own and other platforms, said Radha Subramanyam, chief research and analytics officer of CBS. Tracking impressions across conventional TV and alternative platforms is increasingly hard, she said, acknowledging subscription video on demand and other over-the-top players aren’t always eager to share data either.
“The complexity isn’t helping any of us,” she said, pointing to the difficulty of putting all the pieces together to properly inform advertisers. “The mechanics don’t matter to me as much as a world where it all makes a little sense together.”
Privacy regulation could stand in the way, regardless of what marketers want, Gaffney said.
“We’re going to face that pendulum of privacy probably swinging too far,” he said, arguing that platforms and regulators alike should distinguish between data sharing for ad targeting and for measuring audiences. The latter, he said, can keep people from being inundated with the same ads too often.
“Don’t screw measurement,” he said. “Measurement is inherently a safe thing. It’s actually a good thing. Targeting is the problem. Measurement is part of the solution there. So we’ve just got to keep measurement pure, safe, responsible.”
Ivie said the industry may ultimately have to lobby for regulatory carve-outs that allow more leeway for tracking individuals anonymously for audience measurement than for ad targeting.
Omnicom Media Group Chief Research Officer Jonathan Steuer triggered what may be most optimistic thought. “We’re at peak fragmentation now,” Steuer said. “Less would be better.”
“But it ensures we all have jobs,” Gaffney said.