ComScore’s Second Act: Measuring Premium Video And Getting Closer To Buyers

Brian Wiener will present on video measurement at AdExchanger's upcoming Programmatic IO New York conference on Oct. 15-16.

ComScore is getting back on its feet.

After the Nasdaq delisted the company due to a string of financial foibles and leadership changes, the measurement company brought on former 360i Chairman Bryan Wiener as CEO in April. By May, comScore was trading again on the Nasdaq.

Wiener wants comScore to become the independent, cross-platform measurement currency for the advertising industry. It’s the same initial promise of the comScore-Rentrak merger in 2015 that the company “failed to execute against,” Wiener said.

“Measurement has not kept pace with consumer behavior, and therefore trust in measurement has eroded,” he said. “The industry has been waiting for us to launch these products.”

In July, the company teamed up with TV networks including ABC, CBS, Viacom and NBCU, as well as GroupM, to release a campaign ratings product in beta that provides deduplicated measurement across all video platforms.

Measuring premium video across platforms will be comScore’s “north star,” Wiener said.

But whereas comScore has historically been focused on the sell-side, Wiener wants to also get closer to buyers and create a currency that works for both. In September, he brought on his former 360i colleague Sarah Hofstetter to lead the company’s buy-side push.

“Currencies have two sides,” Wiener said. “We need demand from the buy-side and integration from the sell-side.”

He spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What’s your strategy for becoming the de facto currency for premium video?

BRYAN WIENER: We’re looking at related planning and evaluation tools that help buyers and sellers plan, transact and evaluate in this cross-platform, addressable world. Campaign ratings is proof point one. We're launching a planning product in Q1 that will help buyers forecast how to reach people. A measurement product measures whether you delivered against the target. But they want to know in advance how many people will you reach.

Number two, we need to transform our approach to buy-side adoption. That will grow our business on that side of the marketplace, but also make us more valuable to media owners. Third, we need to streamline and simplify.

How does better TV targeting change comScore’s opportunity?

The more that you buy on advanced audiences, that helps comScore. With our data footprint across linear, OTT, digital and mobile, we’re able to help buyers and sellers reach audiences in ways no one else can. The granularity you need to do that in a cross-platform world is very different than on television.

As an industry, especially those of us that come from digital, we sometimes confuse micro-targeting with direct marketing. Brand advertising also needs to drive sales, it just has a time lag. There are sophisticated models to track if you delivered an ad to [someone who] showed up in the show room three weeks later; was it the same person? The technology and data is there to do that.

How do you measure for engagement on different types of ad experiences? For instance, is playing with a Snapchat filter for 10 seconds more engaging than a pre-roll ad?

The challenge with digital is scale vs. simplicity. If everything is custom, it’s hard to scale measurement and media placement in a cost-efficient way. Simplicity is almost the enemy of engagement.

That’s something we will continue to do R&D and focus on. But the largest opportunity is to help brands reach consumers on all platforms in hyper-targeted and measurable ways with TV content. Linear is a $70 billion advertising market that’s changing dramatically, and premium video is about $13 billion. Don't you think we should focus on solving that problem before we start going to some of these other bright, shiny objects?

The question that keeps coming up is: Is media going to be sold on outcome-based advertising? I don’t think that’s anywhere in the near term.

Why not?

That's shifting all of the risk to the media owner. What happens if the product or the creative aren’t particularly good? The media owner has to monetize the inventory the month they’re providing it. Let’s say there’s a three to six week delay before somebody buys a car. Why should the media owner have to wait to get a check?

Outcomes will judge where to direct investment, which media owners are most valuable and price negotiations. If media owner A is delivering less volume than media owner B, either you should pay less to A, or you should not advertise with them at all and double down on B.

How hard is it to reconcile the interests of both the buy and sell sides? 

The entire marketing ecosystem centers around driving growth for brands. People forget that. If we focus there, then it’s not that hard, because our interests are aligned.

This is why comScore is an important company and what attracted me to becoming CEO. In spite of all the other challenges, our customers want us to win because they need independent, reliable measurement. Our role is to bring confidence to the ecosystem. If the buyer doesn’t have confidence, they’ll buy less.

On a recent podcast, you said you’re going to be working more directly with marketers. What will that look like?

That brings in Sarah Hofstetter. She’s going to lead our initiative not only with traditional marketers, but direct-to-consumer marketers that have taken a lot in-house. We need to address that segment.

Even for traditional marketers, we can help them understand how to reach audiences in ways that are more efficient than the legacy age and gender way, that we think leaves lots of value on the table.

Are marketers more engaged in the measurement conversation? 

Absolutely. Once a year, the 4As, IAB and ANA get together for a tri-board meeting. This year the topic was measurement. Measurement has gone from the back office to being mission critical. If you can't understand if you’re reaching the right people at the right time, if you’re getting what you paid for and if it worked, then you’re not going to spend money.

Marketers are under more pressure than ever before to justify ROI. We can help them do that. We need to spend more time educating marketers and their agencies on how we can add value.

This interview has been edited.

 

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