It's hard to find any love for the Gross Ratings Point as relevant metric for online advertising, and any affection for that measurement was plainly absent at a late afternoon panel on the subject at the ARF Audience Measurement 7.0 conference in Times Square.
The lone defender of the metric was the panel's moderator, Gian Fulgoni, executive chairman/Co-Founder, comScore, who prodded Scott McDonald, SVP, Market Research for Condé Nast, Aaron Fetters – associate director, Global Digital Strategy and Analytics for Kellogg, and Keith Camoosa, North America head of Research at Universal McCann, for a metric -- or set of metrics -- that works best for them.
"Call me old-fashioned, but it seems important to me to know how many people are seeing what you’re saying," Fulgoni said after each of the panelists took a hit at GRPs. "The problem here is understanding the purpose of GRPs -- they are a delivery metric, not an effectiveness metric, so I think that's why I'm hearing what I'm hearing."
UM's Camoosa summed up the panelists' -- and a lot of online media buyers' -- collective negative view of the GRP. "GRPs are synonymous with the tonnage mindset. It’s a difficult mindset to break. It becomes more about smart planning and that is about targeted reach as opposed to counting eyeballs."
For good or ill, major advertisers are still enamored of GRPs, if only because it helps them value placements in a way they're used to -- i.e., TV audience measurement. There are a lot of arguments in favor of bringing the idea of TV-based GRPs to online. For one thing, the online ad industry has often been criticized for lacking a true apples-to-apples standard for comparing online audience numbers in general. The notion for using GRPs, the traditional TV standard, is clear and familiar.
But others have said that GRPs are a great metric for counting eyeballs using a basic reach-and-frequency approach that TV does so well. The panelists, for the most part, argued that online ads’ value should rest on measuring an ad’s effectiveness and levels of engagement.
The increased focus on engagement levels for online ads have presented additional problems for media agencies. For one thing, no one can precisely agree on what and how effectiveness and engagement should specifically be counted.
So when Fulgoni asked Camoosa, "What’s the best way to measure effectiveness?" he responded by saying, "Randomized experiments, on the one hand, to prove something, and the use of econometrics to back it up. Representative panels are very useful in conducting experiments, certainly."
Kellogg's Fetters suggested that even though he comes from a traditional advertiser, he doesn't intend to emphasize a traditional metric across the all platforms. But he's clearly dissatisfied with what's available.
"I have digital in my title, but my goal is not to move all the money into digital," Fetters said. "I want it where it’s most effective. If it’s TV, I look at GRP. If it's print, then I use [a targeted ratings point], and if it’s digital, it’s an impression. But in looking at how effective they each are in concert, I have to use a lot of fuzzy math."
On top of all this, figuring out social media only adds to the headache of measuring ads effectively.
As Condé Nast's McDonald said, the GRP withers in the face of social media. "People on Facebook are hanging out with their friends," he said. "It’s a different mindset from doing a search or reading. The mental context reflects how receptive. GRPs don’t get close to that, plain and simple."
By David Kaplan