Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Ratings take a leap forward

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast July 04, 2013

Cross-platform tracking will change the game, writes Kate Bulkley

You may not know it, but there’s a revolution going on in how advertisers, brands and programme-makers track what you and I are watching.

That includes where we happen to be watching it and exactly what device we are watching it on, be it online or on a TV set.

Of course, a lot has been said about the granularity of online data and the targeting potential of online campaigns. Yeah, yeah, we get it. But the real undiscovered country here is going beyond click-throughs and impressions.

It’s about marrying up the online bit with the gold standard of TV ratings in all its professional panel glory. The Holy Grail is making sure there isn’t double-counting or, on the other hand, that some things aren’t measured at all.

The key here seems to be how to combine the reach and richness of social media data from Facebook with the robust panel TV ratings from Barb.

According to US ratings giant Nielsen, that is exactly what its newly launched, cross-platform campaign ratings solution is going to do. Launched in the US in October last year, Nielsen began testing the system in the UK last week. Using data primarily from Facebook and Barb, Nielsen is pulling the two worlds together.

Companies such as Unilever – which is participating in the UK trial – are hoping that this will give them better insight into how many people see their adverts on both TV and online platforms, even if they are small campaigns.

Brands including AOL are also happy to see this leap forward. “Consumer behaviour is changing whether we like it or not and we all just need to keep up,” says AOL general manager for lifestyle brands and women’s content Maureen Sullivan.

But here is an interesting twist. The ratings are still important because until media agencies are really comfortable with how this is all being measured, they are going to stick with what they know.

Similarly, Barb itself has to be careful about leaping into a new approach to its panels, given that about £4.5bn of advertising revenue rests on its ratings. Barb is running its own online pilots, under project Dovetail, and is moving into phase two soon, but it hasn’t moved into the hybrid data field yet, and is not likely to for some time, giving Nielsen a competitive opportunity.

It’s a balance of not rocking the Barb boat and yet not losing the long-term game.

And, of course, the vast majority of TV viewing is still done via the TV set, despite the rise of other screens in many of our lives.

But there is also this: AOL’s Sullivan says that even though people are starting to ask the right questions about ratings data and demand the right measurement, the biggest challenge may be ahead. That is what to do with it once you’ve got it. “How is all this data going to change our overall planning and how we create content and how brands integrate into it?” she asks.

But that’s for another column.

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