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What’s Missing in the Media Measurement vs. Currency Debate

by Pam Zucker, August 17, 2022
What’s Missing in the Media Measurement vs. Currency Debate

This article was originally published on AdWeek.

Conversations at the recent Cannes Lions focused heavily on today’s complex media environment, but one of the most hotly debated topics was about currency and measurement. The TV industry is absolutely consumed with the emergence of new currencies.

Currency is important, however, it’s simply a starting point to transact a campaign. Marketers care about the endpoint: the ROI for media on selling products and meeting campaign KPIs. Changing the currency won’t tackle this problem. As long as the industry continues to conflate the two, it will stay locked in a vortex that does not answer the real question: Is my media spend working?

As the TV industry becomes more involved with digital, it must learn from its digital counterparts about the benefits of looking at currency and measurement as two distinct things. Yet even digital’s currency framework won’t quite fit for TV.

While there should be some correlation between the two, it’s how marketers differentiate currency and measurement that is the real challenge. If marketers use impressions to transact and value success, then they have created a new but equally bad measuring stick. 

You know what they say about assumptions…

From television’s inception, counting viewership impressions was the primary metric because that was the best you could do, but it has always been known that it was a pit stop on the road to true understanding of a campaign’s performance. Simply counting impressions is flawed because it falsely assumes that every impression delivers the desired impact.

When I first began in media, the industry used to adjust GRPs to account for differentiated attention among different dayparts. Primetime was given a value of 100 and other dayparts were discounted according to different testing methodologies. We knew not all impressions were created equal. This was used until the industry moved to reach as the primary metric for campaign success because different dayparts built reach at different rates. 

Jumping to the present day, marketers know that counting impressions is an even less accurate reflection of success due to evolving consumer behavior. Just counting impressions assumes a lot of unknowns, from viewability to attention and action. The one thing marketers know definitively about today’s TV viewers is that there are often multiple screens and devices competing for their attention. Impressions were a flawed measurement to begin with, but never more so than now.

With the TV industry stuck on using impressions, another problem arises: Unduplicated reach becomes the holy grail of measurement. But as any data scientist who has worked on this problem will tell you—and probably already has—the proliferation of devices, screens, distribution points, etc., makes it nearly impossible to measure accurately and consistently.

Besides, unduplicated reach isn’t a real-time metric. And when marketers consider the added complexity created by walled gardens every major media company is trying to erect, it becomes even more unattainable.

So, why is the industry so concentrated on trying to measure unduplicated reach when this is simply a proxy for real campaign success? It’s a flawed paradigm in which data inaccuracies are inevitable and the viewer experience never improves.

Another issue with relying on impressions as a measurement is the lack of accountability for sellers. They’re the only constituent that benefits from maintaining this old school standard because it means they don’t have to be held accountable for actual, real-time performance on their platform.

Viewership and reach are a distraction from campaign attribution

It’s not that viewership and reach don’t matter at all, but the TV industry has chased it at the expense of more meaningful measurement. It’s a vanity metric that doesn’t really mean much if buyers can’t measure ROI on their campaigns.

The TV industry does need a currency that accurately counts people as a way to transact, and it’s important to understand reach and frequency so you don’t create ad fatigue by bombarding the same viewers over and over again and missing important viewers altogether.

But the bigger priority should be accounting for KPI attribution, whether it’s sales or another key action. Linear TV has a lot to learn from digital in this area.

Campaign attribution should define currency and measurement

If the industry moved off the flawed yardstick of impressions and unduplicated reach toward campaign attribution, it could create a new paradigm where success is measured by meaningful KPIs and holds all parties in the value chain accountable. A more meaningful currency paradigm would account for the following factors:

Transactional cost should be calibrated with campaign delivery. The two metrics are not the same but have a relational value. The first puts all the liability on the advertiser; the second puts all the liability on the seller. Marketers need to find a way to make each party accountable to the other.

Viewer experience matters. Transactional costs should have a relationship to the length of the ad pod and the total minutes of non-content time per program. Additionally, how relevant the ad is to the content and the viewer should matter.

Creative matters. Creative testing should be standardized so the buyer is accountable to the seller, platform and other advertisers in the program. Bad creative should cost more if it hurts other advertisers it keeps company with.

Outcomes matter. Campaign KPIs should become the primary metric for success and the buyer and the seller both need skin in the game.

My plea to the industry is this: Yes, find a better way to count impressions across all screens, but find a better way to gauge campaign success than unduplicated reach. Create a currency, or multiple currencies for transactions, and define a measurement metric that correlates to the campaign goal.

A single metric won’t save us; it will require multiple metrics that depend on the campaign. And in the process of differentiating the two, let’s ensure mutual accountability between buyer and seller.

That is the only way the consumer will win.


About Amobee

Founded in 2005, Amobee is an advertising platform that understands how people consume content. Our goal is to optimize outcomes for advertisers and media companies, while providing a better consumer experience. Through our platform, we help customers further their audience development, optimize their cross channel performance across all TV, connected TV, and digital media, and drive new customer growth through detailed analytics and reporting. Amobee is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tremor International, a collection of brands built to unite creativity, data and technology across the open internet.

If you’re curious to learn more, watch the on-demand demo or take a deep dive into our Research & Insights section where you can find recent webinars on-demand, media plan insights & activation templates, and more data-driven content. If you’re ready to take the next step into a sustainable, consumer-first advertising future, contact us today.

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