Rather than an isolated channel, programmatic is a means to an end – and it all starts with measurement between devices and across channels.
And from measurement comes revenue.
“The whole cross-device measurement question is about understanding the broader marketing goal, but we also all know that if it’s not measured, it’s not valued,” said Carat Global Chief Digital Officer Anthony Rhind during a panel session on the subject at the Programmatic I/O conference in New York City on Wednesday.
“Cracking the cross-channel piece is about getting revenue growth for the programmatic component of our industry.”
Much of the cross-channel measurement question also revolves around figuring out how to create a bridge between online engagement and offline activity. The impetus for establishing that connection comes from both the buy side and the sell side, said David Wong, VP of product at Nielsen.
“Naturally advertisers want to understand how investment online impacts offline sales, but the sell side also wants to understand how their inventory influences offline behavior,” Wong said. “For example, we’ve done work with CBS to see how their content relates to offline sales.”
But Anne Hunter, SVP of global marketing strategy at comScore, said she’s felt more pressure coming from the advertisers themselves. Publishers want to see how their inventory performs, yes, but advertisers need to see if their online efforts are resulting in any kind of incremental lift. Linking digital exposure with offline sales is a “huge focus” for comScore’s business, she said.
“The linkage to absolute revenue is the ultimate goal and the demand comes very much from the buyers,” said Hunter, who noted that comScore is working with TiVO on initiatives to “close the television/digital sales loop” for P&G.
“When P&G says, ‘This is important to us,’ that’s when the sellers say, ‘OK, let’s figure this out,” Hunter said. “Marketers are driving that move.”
Marketers might be a driving force pushing for better cross-screen measurement, but mobile is one of the biggest things driving the marketers themselves.
Facebook specifically has invested a lot of time and money recently in the measurement question.
Back in August, Facebook released its cross-device reporting tool, which tracks customer action and exposure on the web, the mobile web and in-app. Facebook is also in the process of ramping up for the relaunch of Atlas, the ad server it bought from Microsoft back in February 2013. As Rhind noted, it’ll be interesting to see how Google’s DoubleClick will respond to the re-emergence of an adserving platform that can use Facebook itself as a platform to link IDs outside of the Facebook network.
As for the new reporting tool, Rob Creekmore, Facebook’s advertising research manager, said there’s been a “strong adoption curve” among brands thus far.
“But there’s still a lot more room for growth, which is part of the education process for advertisers and making sure they’re aware of what’s out there and how to use the tools that are available,” he said.
Facebook also benefits from having an (ostensibly) large logged-in user base, possibly up to 800 million people. Facebook’s cross-device reporting tool works because it has access to what Creekmore referred to as “real identity” that allows Facebook to tie ad exposure on one device with action on a second or third.
“We believe in people, not cookies, and in the consumer journey across devices,” Creekmore said. “It’s the idea of measuring lift, so we can say what the incrementality of media is even if no one clicks on an ad at all.”
But Facebook can’t go it alone, and neither can independent measurement players like Nielsen and comScore. The best way to measure digital audiences across screens and channels and relate that back to what’s happening in the physical world, is for players like Facebook to be able to inform its measurement with neutral third-party data and vice versa.
Advertisers will be the ultimate beneficiary of those partnerships, Creekmore said.
“We believe that if advertisers have a choice between comScore and Nielsen and if those measurement standards are accredited, then that gives advertisers a powerful tool to compare their media across digital channels and even TV, as well,” Creekmore said. “Standards need to be neutral and remain neutral so we’re not trying to compare this apple to this orange.”
(Facebook partnered with Nielsen in July to help advertisers connect TV viewership to demographic data. Facebook has also done data work with comScore, although the latter is more closely aligned with Google when it comes to audience metrics.)
But measurement, cross-screen or otherwise, is counterproductive without quality. The fraud issue raises its ugly head again.
“Fraud doesn’t just impact the SSP or the exchange, it’s impacting the marketers, because they make the decisions on how to spend dollars based on traditional market mix models,” said comScore’s Hunter. ComScore recently acquired cybersecurity startup MdotLabs to fight cross-platform fraud.
“When a large number of brand videos attract fraudulent traffic and there’s not any sales lift, advertisers might look at that and say, ‘Digital must not work,” Hunter said. “You can’t do cross-platform measurement without a human GRP [gross rating point].”
Wong, of Nielsen, said measurement players should approach fraud as an issue of fire prevention rather than of fire detection.
“It doesn’t help marketers or publishers to say, ‘This platform has 90% fraud,’ because the advertisers lose confidence, the publishers look bad and it’s bad for the marketplace,” Wong said. “Measurement companies will often say, ‘This house is on fire,’ but installing a lot of fire detectors doesn’t prevent a house from burning down.”
It’s up the industry as a whole, measurement players included, “do something to stop the flammable inventory from getting in there at all,” he said.
"Measurement alone doesn't solve the problem of fraud," Wong said. "For that to happen we need broad marketplace coordination."