Ratings Are Back-Assward

I saw something this morning with which I agree totally. It’s a statement, reported in MediaPost, by Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Laura Desmond about how media is measured and how consumers’ multi-screen consumption makes the traditional methods far less useful. As she said: “We need to invest in new measurement techniques for brands.”  That’s right, except that for the most part what we hear about has nothing to do with brands.  In fact, what we do now, and what I expect the industry will do in the future is completely backward.  Let me explain.

When you read about the most-viewed content of the week, have you ever seen a mention of a commercial?  Nope.  It’s all about programs – The Voice or Idol or Duck Dynasty.  The measurements, as Ms. Desmond said, tend to be channel-specific and, therefore, might not reflect all of the consumption that’s occurring.  The point that’s missed from a marketing perspective is that brands use these ratings to estimate how many times their ad was seen and what value they derived from their investment.  My question is this:

Why are we measuring for one thing and reporting for another?

If what we’re after is how many people are seeing a message, why do we care about the vehicle in which that message is delivered?  The industry makes the programming entities measure themselves (fair, since that’s who’s getting paid to deliver the message) but then assumes everyone watching sees the message (OK, I know some folks adjust the numbers slightly but humor my rant here, please).  Why aren’t we working on a system where a brand message carries some sort of tag across all channels that would allow all the impressions to aggregate?  Further, those tags could be used much like cookies to track conversions.  Since it’s the brands that pay for the impressions, should it be their own results that are tracked?

If the industry follows Ms. Desmond’s thinking and does invest in new techniques to measure cross-channel results, they’ll have a hard time if what they’re measuring are programs.  Many programs aren’t in all the places brands want to go.  Some are sold by different sales entities across channels.  It’s backward to measure an inconsistent series of channels instead of the consistent brand who is paying the bills.

What do you think?

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