Working Toward A Common Goal: The State of Cross Media Measurement in Canada

December 4th, 2019 | ACA Team, Association of Canadian Advertisers

graphs and charts

Quebec marketers gathered recently in Montreal for an ACA Executive Forum entitled “Measuring What Really Matters.” It was an opportunity to explore marketer expectations and needs regarding cross-platform measurement.

The ACA had invited measurement experts George Ivie, Executive Director & CEO of the Media Rating Council (MRC); Catherine Malo, Chief Digital Officer and General manager, Member services, Numeris; Cynthia Pachovski, Vice President, Nielsen Media & Marketing Cloud Canada Lead; Bryan Segal, Senior Vice-President, Canada, Comscore and Pat Pellegrini, President & CEO, Vividata.

“It’s all about comparing.” – George Ivie

George Ivie kicked off the morning by presenting what the MRC has been doing for the last fifty years to ensure marketers get objective, reliable, coherent and accurate data from all media to help them make investment decisions.

On the subject of cross-platform measurement, Ivie showed how the MRC’s guidelines aim to establish methodologies to track the number and behaviour of people reached by advertising content and messages. He underlined with a wry humour a few incongruities, such as the fact that podcasts are measured server-side as they are broadcast as well as on the audience side, which means their impressions are measured whether people were listening or not.

For the MRC, cross-platform measurement is a work-in-progress that has begun with the release of preliminary guidelines concerning video ads broadcast on digital media. These guidelines set forth precise standards for visibility, duration and traffic validity that are gaining ground in digital media. Ivie also stressed the importance of MRC audit to ensure compliance and impression quality.

The MRC does not operate all by itself: it relies on cooperation and partnerships with leading measurement companies. Ivie emphasized the challenges of ensuring certification of major platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon.

The MRC’s goal is for marketers to be able to obtain data that they can compare and act upon.

Media Measurement Organizations Take the Stage

Speakers from each of the four media measurement companies present then took turns describing what their organizations are doing to implement a true cross-media measurement system.

It became apparent that event though each measurement company has begun the process, they are not at the same stage. Implementation of cross-media measurement, especially here in Canada, remains a mid to long-term objective. All companies heard rely on internal resources, of course, but also on striking partnerships with specialists on various aspects of media and audience measurement. Numeris’ Catherine Malo summed it up nicely, stating: “We want to get the best each of our partners can offer.”

Creating a Common Language

Cross-media measurement poses a complex challenge and the definitions adopted by the various players are different, and often contradictory. Catherine Malo emphasized the need for a “common language” to define each facet and metric in a way that everyone agrees upon in order to arrive at “transparent, unified, reliable and audited measurements”.

This cannot be achieved in a closed environment, she said. The globalization of media necessitates that research and measurement companies align themselves on global best practices.

A Complex Methodology

Comscore’s Bryan Segal then described the methodology his company uses to derive measurements applicable to all media. Comscore relies on consumer surveys and questionnaires to profile individual consumers’ attitudes and behaviours. These results are then compared against census-based data. This combination offers a complete snapshot of ads viewed, impression duration and consumer reactions.

The challenge is how then to filter this information to avoid duplication and map out how an individual consumer reacts to messages communicated by ads and content he or she is exposed to on the path to purchase.

“How do you activate on all this data?” – Bryan Segal, Comscore

Segal described recursive functions used by Comscore to deduplicate data collected from one web platform to another in order to arrive at actionable measurements advertisers can use to inform their decisions.

Ultimately, Comscore’s objective is to measure all content on all platforms at the granular level.

Understanding Your Clientele: Who Are They? What Do They Buy? What Media Do They Consume?

Cynthia Pachovski from Nielsen described, in these terms, the challenge of getting to know the consumer audience during the transition to one-on-one marketing. As with all other organizations, Nielsen must also deal with inconsistent data generated by various non-standardized sources… all while striving to protect personal information supplied by users.

For Nielsen, creating a unique ID for each consumer is especially challenging in a post-cookie world. “The challenge is to identify and track each consumer, while generating data that is useful and actionable,” she said.

Making the Transition from Raw to Relevant Data

Pat Pellegrini from Vividata described the challenge of turning raw data into relevant data in order to track and analyze client data from day to day.

Pellegrini was describing the path taken by Vividate to transform its consumer research techniques into media measurement technologies. He showed how the firm’s new digital capacities will allow it to capture data from applications, websites, streaming media services and e-commerce, and then to analyze this information to create a complete picture of consumer cross-platform behaviour.

As with the other measurement companies, Vividata also counts on various partnership to flesh out its audience datasets.

Q&A: Brand Safety, Invalid Traffic and Integration of Major Platform Data are Chief Concerns for Marketers

The question period that followed revealed that while cross-platform measurement is important for marketers, they also want to ensure brand safety – that their ads are not placed in or near inappropriate content.

Echoing these concerns, George Ivie indicated that the MRC was working on the development of an “adjacency” guideline that would offer more control and ensure greater brand safety.

This question led to the issue of invalid traffic, which remains very much at the forefront for marketers who see their limited budgets affected by the phenomenon and who want a means to optimize their media placements.

The elephant in the room, however, is what to do with data generated by major platforms, Facebook, Youtube, Linkedin, and others? Marketers want to be able to compare the performance of their investments from one platform to another – and then to make their choices and decide on their budget allocations.

All four speakers from the research organizations present said that marketers must be more demanding of these platforms: “Marketers will have to put their foot down and ask for more transparency”, said Catherine Malo, stressing the importance of creating a consensus that will allow them to become agents of change.

Investing in Research

Bryan Segal concluded by alluding to the necessity for marketers to devote more resources to the development of cross-platform metrics. “The process is under way and it’s certainly irreversible”, he explained. “But there’s only one way to accelerate it, and that is to realize that all this development work costs a lot of money – especially here in Canada. However, it’s crucial to invest in change.”

ACA’s Role

ACA’s Quebec VP, Patrick Hotte, then closed the morning off by reminding everyone present about what the ACA is doing to drive the issue forward over and above meetings such as this one. He pointed out the ACA’s participation in the WFA’s global Cross-Media Working Group, which aims to develop common measurement principles for all markets and to promote its implementation on all platforms.