How programmatic will change TV measurement

The lead image shows an illustration of two people measuring a TV with a ruler.

As programmatic TV advertisers look for more detailed metrics than the age and gender data provided by Nielsen, vendors and cable networks have a chance to come up with their own measurement solutions.

TV advertisers have used Nielsen data on viewer age and gender for media planning and buying for a long time. But with the rise of programmatic TV, media buyers have more tools from their demand-side platform partners to analyze TV manufacturer data and set-top box data beyond Nielsen.

For instance, advertisers can combine manufacturer data with their first-party and third-party data to track people’s viewing habits across digital and TV, according to Jes Santoro, director of ad cloud TV sales for Adobe.

With set-top box data, advertisers can target viewers at the household level so advertisers can see what networks their brands’ commercials ran, how many people within an intended audience might have seen those ads and impression delivery by geography or date, said Sarah Scherer, media product manager for agency Goodway Group.

“Nielsen still primarily operates off of [demographic] ratings, which isn’t useful when compared against the in-depth, rich audience analytics digital and advanced TV can provide,” said Scherer. “Nielsen’s rating system will remain a very broad guide for marketers, but not an accurate or effective means to measure audience delivery.”

Each DSP has its own approach to measuring programmatic TV, and the lack of standardization is the biggest issue in programmatic TV today, according to Lorne Brown, CEO for linear TV tech company SintecMedia. Many organizations are self-reporting, which may work for agencies that want to do data matching, but it is a problem for measurement companies, he said.

“There are big discrepancies even between the measurement companies,” said Brown. “ComScore and Nielsen are often over 40 percent discrepant, which leads to a whole host of problems and allows buyers and sellers to game the system. What’s needed is a more standardized way to measure.”

Brown said OpenAP, a consortium of Turner, Fox and Viacom for cross-publisher audience targeting and independent measurement, is a big step in that direction. OpenAP allows large brands or agencies to match their data with those three major networks, rather than relying on Nielsen.

In spite of the different measurement approaches vendors and TV networks offer, Nielsen ratings are still the currency for TV media buying today because of data fragmentation. “There’s much inertia in the TV space,” said Kevin O’Reilly, CTO of TV measurement company TVSquared. “Nielsen is still the primary delivery mechanism and the point of truth.”

Santoro believes that as long as Nielsen is the transactional currency for the majority of the industry, vendors will have to analyze campaigns using Nielsen’s demographic data.

“But it is fair to say that Nielsen is under increased pressure as brands and agencies are exploring alternative data sets that they feel more accurately capture viewership,” he said.

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