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Cross-media measurement is important but please can we all be more precise?

Cross-media measurement: we must be more precise

Too often this industry confuses two very important related, but different, areas of media measurement.

You should not be surprised to read the CEO of a measurement body asking for more precision. You would, however, be mistaken to assume that I am referring directly to the need for precision in measurement itself.

Instead, I am encouraging the use of more precision in the language that is used around the subject of measurement.

We have quickly hit peak conference season as the members of the media and marketing industry start to return to meeting and greeting each other in 3D.

“It’s so nice to see all your legs,” was one of the best panel facilitator’s remarks I heard recently (albeit somewhat inappropriate if heard out of context!)

Measuring content ≠ measuring ad campaigns

The topic of measurement makes an appearance on most conference agendas, and rightly so. It is front of mind for many, whether advertiser, media agency or media owner. It is a broad and complex topic; one on which many speak with legitimate concern, and no little expertise. The complexity does increase the potential for experts to talk at cross purposes and so drives the need for precision of language.

A good example is the sub-topic of audience measurement. Surely that clarification of focus helps remove any confusion around exactly what is up for discussion? Not necessarily.

The measurement of audiences of online content (and so potentially available audiences for advertising) is very different from the measurement of the audience reached by a specific advertising campaign. The two are, of course, related. They are also entirely separate.

It is a specific ambition, driven by a specific need and requires a specific methodology, to measure the online behaviour of a nation’s entire population on all websites and apps, whether ad-funded or not, across PC, tablet and smartphone. UKOM is mandated by the industry to set and govern this measurement as the UK industry standard.

Insights gained from this “all-content” audience measurement, such as that produced for UKOM by Ipsos iris, feeds the agency and advertiser strategic, communications and media planning process. For media owners, this audience measurement feeds editorial planning and audience or subscriber growth strategies. For governments and regulatory bodies this audience measurement feeds guidelines, rules and, ultimately, legislation.

It is a very specific but different, and no less worthy, ambition driven by its own specific need, to measure the audience delivered by an individual online ad campaign or multiple ad campaigns.

The Origin of this confusion

ISBA’s Project Origin is currently focused on delivering the measurement of audiences of ad campaigns. The Origin team works hard with UKOM to ensure the distinctions between each other’s ambitions and methodologies.

The inputs and the outputs of both content audience and campaign audience measurement are entirely different. Still, frequently the two are wrongly conflated, whether in conversations and meetings, media articles and thought pieces or on conference panels and fireside chats.

Often there is apparent agreement, and occasionally significant argument, between two people who are in fact talking about two entirely different aspects of the same broad topic.

The subject of a debate could be focused on cross-media in general or on an individual format of content or advertising, running cross-device in specific. It could be about programmatic advertising in general or real-time bidding in specific. It could be about the number of podcasts downloaded automatically or the number of podcasts that have actually been actively listened to.

But whatever is under discussion, we would all benefit from more precision being applied to the language used by all making a contribution. For example:

The current tendency to talk at cross purposes reminds me of the ‘humorous’ birthday card meant for people of a certain age where three people, with obviously significant life experience, sit on a park bench, each with their own speech bubble:

“It’s windy.”
“No, it’s Thursday.”
“Me too, let’s have a drink!”
Quite funny. But not particularly constructive…

Ian Dowds is CEO of UKOM, the UK industry governed, multi-platform audience measurement company in partnership with Ipsos. 

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Andy Brown, Consultant, Andrew Brown Associates , on 10 May 2022
“Many thanks for this Ian. This is very timely. The other expressions used interchangeably is cross platform and cross media. It would be great if at events, panel moderators would challenge the speakers to define their terms.”

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