Solving The Key Industry Problems – ARF Audience Measurement 2015

This year’s ARF Audience Measurement (AM) conference was held in New York with 120+ speakers and hundreds of interested research and marketing leaders from agencies, brands, media, and research organizations. The theme of the conference was Measuring Up: Translating Talk into Action, and across the talks as well as during and between the sessions the same message was repeated over and over again; the industry is not doing a good enough job in measuring the increasingly fragmented, multi-device audiences of digital properties.

Facebook Atlas spokesman, James Dailey, started thread of discussion by presenting results from a recent survey about marketing and research leaders’ perceptions regarding both the importance and the quality of measurement in different media. While the industry perceives traditional media such as TV, radio, and print to be sufficiently well measured, the same does not hold true for the more important channels such as online and mobile. For example, the widely used cookie-based measurement methods result in massive over-estimation of reach and under-estimation of frequency, due to people routinely both deleting cookies as well as having multiple cookies for each of their various devices. A number of follow-up presentations continued with this theme, highlighting the need for reliable, consistent practices for cross-platform, multi-device measurement.

In addition to the problems associated with reach and frequency, the lack of reliable data on a third key metric – the time spent with digital properties – was brought up many times. Artie Bulgrin of ESPN underlined the importance of this: when the time spent with a property increases, so do the interactions and impressions, it’s all about time. However, the practices for measuring time spent are still inadequate. If we want to know how much time (or money) people spend online, we can’t just ask them – more sophisticated measurement methods are needed.

Yet another recurring theme was the fight between traditional media measurement methods and big data. The amount of data automatically collected from consumer’s interactions with digital devices and properties is often abundant, but that does not necessarily mean that the “right” data is collected in order to make good decisions. Also, a lot of hard work is required to make sense of all the available data. Arianna Huffington summed this up beautifully in her inspiring opening keynote speech: “We’re drowning in data and starving for wisdom.” In a follow-up panel discussion between industry leaders, a key conclusion was that big data alone is not enough and panel data alone is not enough – these need to be combined and calibrated with one another.

Given these high-level themes: 1) the lack of good measurement data on multi-device behavior, 2) the lack of reliable and consistent practices for calculating the key metrics, and 3) the need to combine traditional measurement practices with big data, the scene was perfectly set for us to present our approach for solving these issues. In our Monday afternoon presentation, our CEO, Hannu Verkasalo, presented our robust methodology combining panel-based meter data with census-level big data used as calibration data, and demonstrated how the methodology allows us to calculate, for example, the unduplicated total reach and time spent for properties, across PCs, smartphones, and tablets. The most interesting data points of the presentation were also published in our latest US Digital Content Market report this week.

The conference reassured us that we are on the right track, solving the most critical problems the industry is facing, with methods that are robust and aligned with the consensus about the future best practices. We left the conference extremely motivated and empowered, with a strong feeling that we’re doing exactly the right thing!