Can au­di­ence mea­sure­ment mea­sure up to the chang­ing con­tent con­sump­tion land­scape? Eleanor Dick­in­son re­ports from IBC 2016

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE -

Ex­plor­ing im­mer­sive con­tent.

H ow do you imag­ine an ‘au­di­ence’? This was a is­sue un­der reg­u­lar scru­tiny at this year’s In­ter­na­tional Broad­cast­ing Con­ven­tion in Am­s­ter­dam. With new tech­nolo­gies and be­hav­iours ‘gnaw­ing at the edges’ of tra­di­tional me­dia, as one TV head vis­cer­ally put it, the challenge of re­ally know­ing who is con­sum­ing dig­i­tal con­tent, has left me­dia com­pa­nies strug­gling. Tele­vi­sion’s crown has been usurped by dig­i­tal con­tent, and watch­ing video be­hind mul­ti­ple screens – some­times at the same time – has be­come a house­hold norm. Even in an era when dig­i­tal-driven mea­sure­ment of TV and catch-up plat­forms sit com­fort­ably along­side tra­di­tional panel mod­els, the gen­eral con­sen­sus at this year’s IBC was that tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments will only cre­ate more prob­lems for me­dia an­a­lysts, not solve them.

“It’s much harder be­cause to reach scale you have to hit your tar­get au­di­ence in so many dif­fer­ent ways,” ex­plains Lee Raf­ferty, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions at US-based TV net­work NBC-Univer­sal In­ter­na­tional. “You now need to tai­lor con­tent not only to the brand and au­di­ence, but also to the plat­form you’re on. It’s in­cred­i­bly re­source-in­ten­sive, but the up­side is that now we’re get­ting real-time data from a cam­paign, which you can tweak and tai­lor as you’re go­ing on. Be­fore, we used to ar­gue which cam­paign would work, but now we put [two] on and op­ti­mise from there.”

While many on the con­fer­ence cir­cuits pre­fer to think of au­di­ence mea­sure­ment as driv­ing a more hu­man re­la­tion­ship be­tween the brand and the con­sumer, for Martin Green­bank, head of ad­ver­tis­ing re­search and devel­op­ment at UK tele­vi­sion net­work Chan­nel 4, the con­cept is al­to­gether more bes­tial.

“With mea­sur­ing video as a whole, is it like an ele­phant, some gi­ant beast that will get big­ger and big­ger, or like a uni­corn, a myth­i­cal en­tity we will never achieve?” he asks. “My view is that it is a bit of an ele­phant and that we should not get too dis­tracted by the myth. An ele­phant may seem cum­ber­some and slow, but it is faster than Usain Bolt, be­lieve it or not. And the in­dus­try mea­sure­ments around have amaz­ing strength and are a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of the pop­u­la­tions they rep­re­sent. Like ele­phants, they take a long time to get there through evo­lu­tion and many changes.”

Con­tin­u­ing his zoo­log­i­cal metaphor, Green­bank adds: “If you think of spi­ders, they have mul­ti­ple eye­balls. If you’re mea­sur­ing an ad or con­tent de­liv­ery through a dig­i­tal mea­sure, you can only see that it’s gone to a dig­i­tal de­vice. Whereas we know that, like spi­ders, house­holds have mul­ti­ple eye­balls on the sofa and you have to be able to de­scribe that. And that’s where we have moved into: trans­lat­ing dig­i­tal mea­sure­ment into mul­ti­ple de­mo­graph­i­cally and dis­cretely tar­geted au­di­ences that we can sell to ad­ver­tis­ers.

“The im­por­tant bit here is that you’re not sell­ing some­thing that is of mul­ti­ple value; you’re us­ing this in­for­ma­tion to prove to the buyer that they’re get­ting the peo­ple they ex­pect to be reach­ing at the start of that trans­ac­tion. I think we’re en­ter­ing a world where all these an­i­mals are con­verg­ing – a zoo of mea­sure­ment tech­niques. But it re­quires a lot of co­or­di­na­tion and de­sign and, like any suc­cess­ful zoo, it takes peo­ple to build the zoo, but it takes quite a lot of zookeep­ers to make sure they all work to­gether.”

Yet while data har­vest­ing may make the job eas­ier for me­dia plan­ners – and, as some would ar­gue, even do their role for them – the in­for­ma­tion gleaned does lit­tle to in­flu­ence the con­tent it­self, so Green­bank be­lieves.

“I think we’re talk­ing about mar­ginal gains, though, when we’re us­ing that data” he says. “The idea of com­ing with a bet­ter pro­gramme is go­ing to make a far greater dif­fer­ence to the size and qual­ity of your au­di­ence than when you tin­ker around the edges of us­ing the data. It can be ex­plana­tory and help you de­liver to ad­ver­tis­ing au­di­ences in a more ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive way, but fun­da­men­tally for a broad­caster our core aim is to make bet­ter pro­grammes. And to this point data has not sug­gested it can help de­sign pro­grammes.”

But where does this leave so­cial me­dia plat­forms such as Face­book and YouTube? These out­lets ar­guably now have a big­ger role and in­flu­ence than tele­vi­sion on view­ers’ me­dia habits, es­pe­cially when it comes to news con­sump­tion among mil­len­ni­als. In the Mid­dle East, the over­all use of on­line news sources among youth grew from 40 per cent in 2015 to 45 per cent to­day, with so­cial me­dia up from 25 per cent to 32 per cent, ac­cord­ing to Asda’a Bur­son-Marsteller’s 2016 Arab Youth Sur­vey. While au­di­ence reach on a su­per­fi­cial level is eas­ily mea­sured in terms of click and hit num­bers, un­der­stand­ing real and con­scious en­gage­ment lev­els con­tin­ues to dog me­dia plan­ners. Last year, Ex­po­nen­tial MENA’s Amer M. At­tyeh told Cam­paign how videos of “short emo­tive ex­pe­ri­ences” would be­come a strat­egy sta­ple.

How­ever, at IBC, Ricky Sut­ton, founder of Aus­tralia-based video an­a­lyt­ics com­pany Oovvuu, took a more pes­simistic ap­proach. Ac­cord­ing to him, con­tent qual­ity it­self has lit­tle over­all im­pact. “Face­book gen­uinely does not care what is be­ing watched,” he says. “Whether it’s a kit­ten be­ing sick in a bucket or some­one shoot­ing drone footage or a bril­liant TV view, they just don’t care. It’s just a view, it has an ad against it and they sell it and make money. And I think that’s a real prob­lem.” He adds: “I think with the ‘ Na­palm girl’ story [when Face­book in Septem­ber re­moved copies of a Pulitzer-win­ning pho­to­graph of a naked child run­ning from an at­tack dur­ing the Viet­nam War], they showed this week that they are out of touch with their re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

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