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GroupM Nexus & VAB

The race to find TV’s new currency

The race to find TV’s new currency

Measurement providers offer alternatives during this year’s upfront.

New vendors and approaches to Nielsen are continuing to shape a new era in the measurement marketplace. As more media companies work with a growing list of alternative measurement providers both as their main and secondary currencies, optionality is increasing. That means marketers have more choice than ever to control their own brand's destiny.

During a recent Campaign US Tech Talk, editor Alison Weissbrot moderated a discussion between Sean Cunningham, CEO and president of VAB; Sean Fasset, SVP, research at NextStar National Networks; Samantha Rose, EVP, media investment at Horizon Media; and Maggie Zhang, SVP, measurement strategy and operations at NBCUniversal, about currency alternatives and performance comparison across different channels and formats.

Competition in the marketplace

Cunningham kicked off the discussion by saying the suspension of Nielsen’s accreditation acted “as a whistleblower to shine a light on some significant defects and deficiencies.” Since then, “the marketplace has gone irrevocably into a multi-measurement world.” The good news is that “competitors push innovation and that's what we're looking for in the marketplace.”

At NBC Universal (NBCU), “measurement innovation and measurement transformation are always top of mind,” Zhang said. Which is why NBCU has been a huge advocate of more competition and evolution in the measurement space. Through more than 150 RFPs, the network “narrowed down and organized measurement solutions into seven categories and then zoomed into the cross-platform audience measurement space.” NBCU then certified iSpot and VideoAmp as its currencies for advanced audiences.

“We are already living in this multi-currency world,” Zhang explained. “It’s critical now to operationalize these multi-currencies both in our internal workflow and operational processes.”

The industry is ready to “embrace a multi-currency world,” Rose said. “The onus is on us to figure out what makes the most sense for our clients in a particular campaign or KPI.” Because companies previously didn’t have a measurement choice, this presents a great opportunity to forge a “partnership with those vendors and our partners and publishers.”

NextStar, for example, is “looking to find the right mix of measurement companies to allow us to go across multiple platforms, not just from the currency side of the business, but from the local and up to national,” Fasset said. The truth is “there's a need in the marketplace to have it all tie together.”

Enabling change

Training is critical to get to a fully operational multi-currency world. In addition to internal team training, it’s important to “educate and scale and share the knowledge throughout the industry and across partners,” Zhang said.

Part of the transformation effort is about change management. To move beyond legacy, ”there is a lot to change from a systems perspective — tooling platform, how to build a plan, how to traffic, how to provide pacing to our agency clients and advertisers and how to bill and reconcile together through third-party vendors with our agency partners,” she said. The product team is “the unsung hero to enable these changes, ingest big data, understand second beta of granular level data and how that impacts the entire system.”

VAB, for example, has the Measurement Innovation Task Force. “We've got senior researchers, senior data officers, senior audience analytics, people from 18 different publisher and distributor multiscreen TV companies working together,” Cunningham said.

What they are trying to do with measurement and currency is “swing it over to pure asset and finish the race from demography, age, sex down to identity and be able to get to specific customer sets.” Through the task force, they can “advance not only the excellence of the currency instruments themselves but also never lose sight that this all has to work operationally,” he said.

Investing in quality

The truth is “the systems need to be able to catch up to the discussion,” Rose said. “There are a lot of different people that we need to collaborate with in order to make this successful because there's currency and there's all the way down through to measurement and performance and business outcome.”

The industry “is starting to change,” Fasset said. It’s not just “about the demographics but the quality behind the quantity of the audience that you're getting there.”

In terms of the multi-currency reality, “the future is already here,” Zhang said. NBCU has set up “the currency council to directly transact with advertisers who are ready and willing to transact on new currency.”

Nielsen will continue to play a major role and has “aspirations for a cross media measurement system that would bring in large digital walled gardens, including YouTube and Google, as part of the Neilsen ONE vision,” Cunningham concluded. The key is that it is one of several now. The landscape has changed and there is “a world of optionality, a world where they're pushing one another in terms of investment in innovation and capital infusion, and being able to get a better product together.”

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