TV Is Getting More Targeted? Online Video Is Adopting GRPs? Welcome To The Upfront Twilight Zone.

The ever-insightful Mike Glantz has picked up on something strange in the water for video (TV and online) advertising these days. After conducting a great panel at the Forrester Marketing Leadership Forum in Los Angeles last week, here's his take:

Online video is certainly rising fast as a medium and an ad vehicle. Just this week, comScore announced that Americans watched more than 8 billion video ad impressions in March alone, setting an all-time record. Audiences in the US are embracing online video across a wide variety of devices and show no signs of slowing down. To capitalize on this explosive growth, many of the big online publishers like AOL, Hulu, and Yahoo are hosting their own "New Fronts," with the hope of emulating TV and attracting bigger advertisers with deeper pockets and larger commitments to purchase the more valuable online ad space in advance.

But how will all of this video be measured, bought, and sold? Since its inception, video has been bought and sold on digital metrics, like impressions, clicks, and completes. But video ad spend is still priced at pennies, compared with TV. In a play to get a piece of TV ad budgets, many of the media sellers behind the New Fronts are adopting gross rating points (GRPs), the currency of TV, as their standard measurement. Measuring video and TV the same way can allow for apples-to-apples comparisons between the two, which gives marketers the freedom to spend across TV and video and reach their audiences wherever they are. Win-win, right?

Not necessarily. Are GRPs the right solution for marketers to plan across channels? Last week, at our Marketing Leadership Forum on a panel I moderated, Bob Ivins, a VP at Comcast, told the audience that an adoption of GRPs as the cross-platform standard is very “short-sighted.” On the surface, it does seem like TV is trying to get more targeted, while digital video is using GRPs to become more like TV. The conflict is surprising, since online video has the power to precisely target viewers based on show preferences, online behaviors and affinities, as well as demographic information. And TV sellers are working to make ads more targetable, witnessed by cable operators investing to enable addressable advertising against time-shifted content and measurement companies like Rentrak and Kantar seeking to apply set-top-box data to make measurement more nuanced and refined than age and gender.

So what is with the double talk? Online moves to GRPs while TV takes a shot at uniques? What is the right answer for effective cross-platform media buying and measurement? Are GRPs the be-all-end-all solution? The forces driving the current marketplace certainly seem to think so. However, when we partnered with the Association of National Advertisers for a survey of marketers in January, they resoundingly told us the future of measurement is in uniques, (subscription required). We think we are entering a time of using both to benchmark audiences, as my colleage Tracy Stokes and I described in our latest report, "The New Layers Of TV Audience Insight" (subscription required here, too). I hear the rerun of the Twilight Zone theme in my head as I tried to figure this all out (or the video is playing via my iTunes download). 

What do you think the future holds for TV and video measurement? I am working on an upcoming report on the future of GRPs and would love to hear your thoughts below or in The Forrester Community For CMO & Marketing Leadership Professionals.

Comments

The Wrong Data

Today’s networked media environment is chucking out data about consumers that goes right to the heart of many of the assumptions that have driven the marketing industry in the past.

Previously, a lot of marketing data has in fact been a theoretical version of the world that allows brand executives to test their ideas and assumptions. Which means that, like a scientist in a pristine, controlled laboratory, not only can almost nothing go (badly) wrong, but the nature of the experiments can be designed within parameters that are brand-friendly.

However, the digital data being collected today about consumers (aka people) is of a different type altogether. In the brand laboratories it was normal, and encouraged, to ask consumers what they wanted, because they were seen as rational individuals who could be popped into an appropriate segment and then analysed over time.

In networked media, the data being gathered about people is recording what they are actually doing. Be it browsing, buying, watching, commenting, choosing, liking as well as who they know and, increasingly, where they are.

And what is now becoming evident is that comparing the laboratory findings with the digital bits and bytes is like comparing zebras and camels. They’ve both got four legs and like eating grass but the similarities end there. And it's a stark distinction that is being recognised in a wide range of different places, as the amount of this 'new' data grows.

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