Close encounters: Leaving behind misleading metrics

Close encounters: Leaving behind misleading metrics

Amid a confusing variety of metrics to measure video, encounters help us understand a customer’s holistic media experience that is based on receptivity.

Most media metrics are now meaningless.

This may sound strange coming from a media agency, but this is the state of play in the world of video.

Be it Channel 4 evolving its 4.0 YouTube offering, YouTube evolving its TikTok-esque Shorts offering or TikTok’s “Out of Phone” ad solution, the way in which we are exposed to video content continues to hurtle towards something unrecognisable.

This increased variance in what video is means any singular lens through which we have traditionally viewed the media landscape — reach, completion, viewability and content quality —  is all open for interpretation.

The relentless quest to find a yardstick by which we can compare and contrast different video channels is doomed. There is no media metric Holy Grail. No matter how nice it would be to be able to package up some nice, tangible (or reportable) impacts.

Holistic media experience

We must downplay the science and start focusing on the art. This begins with refocusing on encounters and understanding how invested our video audience is and how long they are exposed to our brand.

Thinking “encounter” helps to provide a genuinely holistic media experience (where messages and objectives are aligned by format experience) for the customer that is based on receptivity.

Take platform reach in the video landscape — a metric that can and often does cause confusion when looking at the achievable scale of different channels.

Comparing each channel and platform is not like comparing apples and apples. TV’s reach delivery is based on impacts and is duration-based. Cinema is based on admissions. And broadcast VOD (BVOD), YouTube and online video are based on impressions served.

Therefore, like-for-like comparisons become ever more complicated. But getting to something comparable is necessary in order to make informed decisions about campaigns and spend brand funds effectively.

Demystifying metric complexity

Thinking about encounter allows planners to do this while demystifying metric complexity.

At Wavemaker, we’ve been testing how to contrast and compare with these adjustments of scale in mind by bringing it back to encounters.

In our Open Video 4.0 study, we analysed eight of the best reach-driving video platforms — TV, cinema, BVOD, YouTube, online video, Meta (Facebook and Instagram), TikTok and Snap — at various spend levels and different age cohorts.

In general, our study found the reach playing field has levelled out. However, to truly know its value, understand what the audience has been exposed to and make it comparable, we must work back towards an encounter.

To begin with, we looked at the completed view reach. The mixed-media metric of reach was consistently higher in comparison to completed reach and, in some cases, such as on social video platforms, performance dropped substantially.

Flawed approach

However, even taking logical steps from pure reach to complete reach in order to give something more comparable is flawed; “completion”, as it transpires, is another mixed-media metric.

It’s like comparing a sprint and a marathon. If you asked one group of people to run 50 metres and another to run a marathon, you wouldn’t assume that those who completed the 50 metres were fitter and healthier than those who failed to complete the marathon, would you?

In other words, reliance on singular metrics can be problematic because completion rates can disguise the true value of an encounter. Ad encounters on social platforms are much shorter because they are about quick, punchy, skippable content exposures.

It’s a widely accepted norm that the creative execution on this platform needs to be shorter, so you’re getting fewer completed seconds for your higher completion rate.

What this means for brands

You can’t quantify the value of an impression purely by the completion rates. It doesn’t account for the encounter experience.

For example, to take our study a step further, we took the average CPM of each channel, overlaid the average length of an ad on the platform and the average completion rate to provide an average cost per completed second.

The finding was that, in terms of completed ad encounters, TV remains the most cost-effective channel, driven by its high completion rate and the fact that it lends itself to longer advertising encounters.

This is interesting due to the stereotype of TV as the most costly channel and certainly against the likes of digital’s “budget” efficiency. However, mainly, it’s about how mixed-media metrics and definition inconsistencies can be misleading and the need to understand the numbers an agency uses is pivotal.


The nature of the evolution of the video landscape means that, just like media metrics, the delivery results that we see need to be unpicked. They need to be evaluated and they need to be challenged.

Once again, we need to downplay the science and start focusing on the art to understand what encounters drive what results and deliver on different marketing objectives.

Players within the video landscape have all evolved to a point whereby they no longer have a singular offering — they are free to innovate, imitate and learn alongside their competitors, providing huge opportunities for advertisers and consumers alike.

This evolution does, however, add an additional layer of complexity to our planning approach and leaves us open to the pitfalls of misleading media metrics. By focusing on encounters, we are designing not just for media KPIs but how our audience think, feel and respond to advertising.

And isn’t that the whole point?

Sam Olive is head of video at Wavemaker UK

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