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Think BR: Moving media measurement into the 21st Century

Use of traditional media metrics is stifling development and innovation in the media landscape, writes Rhys McLachlan, corporate development director, Videology.

Rhys McLachlan, corporate development director, Videology

Rhys McLachlan, corporate development director, Videology

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It’s 2011 and nearly 30% of total media consumption occurs digitally. Every medium - with exception of cinema - has become 'internetified' to coin a word.

Consumer uptake and adoption of emerging technologies and the media they support, have created an unprecedented landscape for media planners and buyers to exercise their skills.

Or, at least they would, if the media industry was more inclined to free itself of the shackles of legacy media metrics and antiquated auditing procedures that have stifled growth, innovation and activation.

Panel, interview or diary based metrics such BARB, Rajar and NRS tell a useful story and help frame broad media channel usage, but having been established during the analogue era, they are not well placed to determine usage and behaviour, or inform media investment, in the modern digital environment.

This is going to become even more apparent as consumption of legacy media channels continues to move to internet-powered platforms.

For example, while 7% of total ‘TV’ viewing in 2011 will take place online, on-demand or over IP, investment in video on demand is nowhere near 7%.

It seems antiquated that the UK’s commercial TV market, which is worth more than £3.3bn, is still bought and sold on the basis of the habits of just over 5,200 homes.

Further, this data is generated by panel members who have to actively participate to ensure their TV viewing is correctly recorded.

This isn’t to denigrate BARB which is, rightly, held up as the global flag-bearers for the measurement of television viewing, but I have real reservations about the dilution of its core competency as the pressure mounts for it to assess viewing outside of this central remit.

For the established measurement bodies, adapting analogue data assessment for the digital age is a sticking plaster solution that merely appeals to those who seek the comfort of the status quo.

Reach and frequency are no longer the be all and end all of media. As targeted digital campaigns mean that more and more of us see different messages even while we look at or watch the same content, even the biggest panel is going to be unrepresentative.

What we should be looking to develop is a metric that unifies all this consumption, one that crosses the boundaries of traditional channels and accepts that they are part of a single consumer diet.

Proper 21st century metrics should be tied to an agreed outcome, incorporating sales data from sources such as dunnhumby or Nectar to track and model sales similar to the way that the direct response agencies have developed.

The bottom line is that we have the data to do better but there seems to be a general reluctance to do so.

Current practices are also reinforced by procurement departments and audit pools that judge agencies performance on the basis as judged by old-fashioned and inappropriate metrics.

The problem with metrics that are channel based, reach and frequency and cost per ratings point, is that they distort the planning process, they encourage agencies to plan for reach and frequency rather than for innovation and effectiveness.

Media channels that deliver great results - be it response or brand metrics - aren’t always those that have the best Rajar, BARB or NRS scores.

That’s great for brands that can identify those opportunities although those media owners are effectively being shortchanged.

Trading media on the basis of share of commercial impacts per channel also stifles the innovation on the buy side - a fact recognized by Jonathan Allan, formerly of OMD but at Channel 4.

We live in a world where most media owners are now effectively measured by multiple metrics thanks to their analogue and digital operations.

The bottom line is that the consumer has moved on but the media business seems reluctant to change its customs and practices.

Rhys McLachlan, corporate development director, Videology

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