Online Ad Industry Looks to Make Sense of 3MS

A September Ad Age article discussing advertisers’ concerns about the measurement of online advertising raised some interesting thoughts about our current tools and how they might be improved in the future.

This new effort has been coined “3MS,” short for “Making Measurement Make Sense” with the underlying objective of creating standards in how online media is purchased, sold and, most importantly, measured.

With a mix of media partners, big agencies and well-known brands such as Coca-Cola and AT&T, it will gain some significant traction in the marketplace over the next year or so.

Data Overload?
In the past few years, the choices marketers have in activation platforms have exploded. Utilizing content as a proxy for an engaged and interested target has now emerged to “audience buying” strategies through the use of demand side platforms (DSPs), exchanges, and network-proprietary analysis and delivery mechanisms.  The use of more and more behavioral targeting, retargeting, and the inclusion of large networks and DSPs are now staples of today’s media plans.

With that, a great deal of complexity has accompanied these massive options and lead to serious concerns within our industry — serving multiple iFrames, brand safety, contractual compliance and
competitive separation to name just a few. And now, the industry is questioning the standards of measurement that we have come to know for many years.

3MS Overview
But what exactly does 3MS mean, and what is it trying to accomplish?  Is it making measurement better or working to create a temporary Band-Aid for online measurement?  To simplify, this inniative implies the following:

  1. Similar to the traditional currency platforms, creating a third-party auditing platform, such as Arbitron, that validates not just media delivery, but audience delivery and brand safety.
  2. Standardizing ad formats for online display and video.
  3. Setting greater standards for how an “online impression” is served and accounted.
  4. Creating standards that make digital media measurement more comparable and integrated
    with other media.

The Click-Thru Connundrum
Digital media has always been very measurable, however the industry got off to a bad start by quantifying measurement by way of the click-thru rate back in 1994.  That metric has haunted us for many years and led many marketers to focus their attention on metrics that don’t really

Research has shown that 84 percent of internet users do not click on ads, but what about the rest of the metrics: cost per conversion, interaction rates and time spent and how true numbers can show positive lifts or greater efficiencies in overall business metrics?  And what about creative messaging – we are forgetting about one entire side of the story.

Creative Content Is Key
Comscore studies have shown that more than 50 percent of a given online ad’s effectiveness is dependent on the efficacy of the creative message. To make the statement that online measurement is broken does not bode well with some of the digital experts at Empower MediaMarketing. Truly effective measurement should take into account the effectiveness of the creative message, as well as the media placement. Research has proven time and again that there is no correlation between brand lift and click-thru rate.

Measure the Right Data
Could digital measurement be better? Yes, but let’s also consider other media metrics.  Again are we focusing on the right metrics?  Perfect example: The success of the fall line up of shows that premiere every year are solely based on ratings. If a show does not get good ratings, it gets cancelled.

But what about all the people who like the shows that get cancelled — who are engaged with those shows, the characters and the content? Do we have to send beans to network executives each and every time to get our message across? Are target rating points and gross rating points (GRPs) the right metrics to be measuring the effectiveness of TV, particularly in the days of time-displaced TV consumption? TV ratings do not take in to effect audience engagement, nor can audience response between creative sizes or executions be compared the way in which digital is currently measured.

Moving Towards Impressions
ComScore, the industry leader in digital validation and audience measurement, just released its new AdXpose tool in August this year and appears to be gaining some viable traction. The tool allows us to gauge the actual number of impressions that were delivered above the fold and are viewable by desired target audience. This is important because it makes an effort to provide a more fair marketplace for media buyers, and it also contributes to more meaningful metrics by which we can measure campaigns.

Gross GRPs, which are provided by other research companies, can contain up to 20-60 percent waste because this metric is inclusive of any and possibly all of the following:

  • Ads which are not seen,
  • Ads viewed next to objectionable content,
  • Ads delivered outside the target (e.g., women 25-54),
  • Impressions which don’t drive brand impact.

ComScore’s solution measures validated contacts or impressions, which includes the following insights:

  • Ads that are actually viewed,
  • Ads shown in safe content,
  • Ads delivered to the right target audience,
  • All impressions that have the potential to create brand impact.

Beyond TV
Moving beyond TV as we know it today, what about Internet-enabled TVs and console platforms such as Microsoft’s Xbox? We have an amazing opportunity ahead of us to “get it right” based on what we know about digital measurement right now and not make measurement match or comparable to existing standards.

Aside from the questions of finding the right measurement technology and partner, we need to be focusing on the bigger picture, not just a subset of media. And beyond that, marketers need to be focusing less on “media” per se and more on consumer communication platforms.

Consumers have media several choices today that are all vying for their attention. Before we try to match one measurement standard more closely aligned with another, why don’t we start with a holistic view and make sense of measurement metrics — regardless of whether or not it’s online, versus mobile or TV? It will be interesting to see how time treats this new initiative in the early part of next year.

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Lisa Kidwell
Lisa Kidwell