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The Myth of Cross-Platform Viewer and Ad Metrics

There's been a lot of discussion about the need for cross-platform metrics, but speakers at an Advertising Week New York session last week illustrated that, for metrics to truly matter and live up to the targeting potential long promised by streaming video, they must be tailored to both the type of content and the platform on which it's delivered.

The session included plenty of polite comments about what metrics matter most, but each media company eventually admitted where they draw a line in the sand.

If you want to watch CBS online, you will see ads, said Mark DeBevoise, president and coo, CBS Interactive. DeBevoise said his company's content has a 96% ad completion rate for 30-second spots and a 1% fraud rate because they have a zero tolerance for ad-blockers. "Ad blocking gets put on there for video people don't need to have," he said. "We don't serve video to people who have an ad blocker on; we'll take that hit." CBS, with its content's lean-back, longer format, identified fighting ad blockers and viewability fraud as the metrics that matter to them.

Scroll through a Facebook feed, and 2 seconds of video without audio is a brand's window for capturing attention. "If you're consuming video, you're doing it in a very different state than you were doing it five or ten years ago," said Brad Smallwood, vice-president of measurement science for Facebook. "The challenge for us is to come up with metrics and media that will actually influence people in their environment, as opposed to forcing them into the environment that we want them to be in." Facebook's viewers are in scroll mode, and the 2-second measurement is what they feel is the metric that matters. "Ultimately the real metric is business outcomes," said Smallwood. "All outcomes don't happen thru one format."

"We think about not just the number of people we can get to our site, but the number that care enough to get through the advertisement," said David Levy, executive vice president, non-linear revenue at Fox Networks Group. They are wooing viewers with engagement ads, using a shorter interactive ad format. "In order to deliver a message, you need someone's active attention. What I think is valuable to me is someone spending at least 15 seconds of their time proving that they're there interacting with the message."

"Are there comparable metrics (among) Facebook, NBC and the Wall Street Journal? I think there I would say there probably shouldn't be, because what's important from a user value perspective is very different," said Levy. Fox's most important metric is engagement in exchange for shorter ad breaks.

"I think the additional layers of viewability, frequency, and fraud are the key things that now have started to sort themselves out as key things in digital that we can measure. (These are things) that we couldn't measure on other platforms," said DeBevoise.

The Nielsen Council for Research Excellence has done research on brand recall. The most important measurement was if someone was engaged, while the next was if someone cared about the category that was being advertised. "The problem is, we don't know anything about how the person is viewing," said Howard Shimmel, chief research officer of Turner Broadcasting System. "We don't know how engaged they are, we don't know the context and the content of the advertising, (and right now) we can't build ad products that allow us to know that there's way more engagement when Turner broadcasts March madness than when we're running a mid-season game." As with Fox, the metric that matters most for Turner is engagement.

Different platforms require different behaviors and levels of attention from viewers. "It scares me that in 2025 we will still be using age, sex, demographics. I think we're going to leave a lot of ROI for lots of clients untapped because we're not doing things like targeting and putting messages in front of people that we actually think matter driving the brand," said Shimmel. "The thing I think we need is understanding for each metric, what drives impact for each media. It could be the metrics for TV are very different than what drives Facebook."

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