Speaking at SAARF*'s 8th Media Research Symposium this year, Megan Clarken**, MD: Media for Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa at Nielsen, Australia, said that in order to grow adspend, the accountability that exists in the traditional media space must extend across digital media.
And by accountability, she means a proper internet audience currency, in line with the established currencies of the traditional media.
"In the next five to 10 years, those who own the digital space will be in the pound seats. But with this comes a problem - how will those in the digital space prove their worth to marketers? How can we make the digital space accountable?" she asks.
Time spent online is out of kilter with adspend. Consumers are flocking to digital faster than ad rands have shifted. While Clarken maintains that part of the reason for this is the devaluation of the online space by underselling the medium with free content, she feels the lack of accountability is a key factor.
Advertisers know intuitively that the audience is there, but they need more than this. How do they prove it? Which numbers do they believe? The need for an online currency
"In order to create growth in a media industry, you need a currency," says Clarken. "You need planning data that is consistent, of a high quality, and from one independent, reputable supplier. Advertisers should be confident that they're getting the best quality data possible."
She feels that an online currency should also use the language of traditional media. "For many years, online has been throwing out so many numbers that it's just succeeded in complicating things. With some sites quoting 'unique hits' and 'impressions' while others talk about 'unique users' and 'unique browsers' and 'user sessions', how can we blame advertisers for being confused?
"We need to take a step back and fall in line with the 'old-school' media, so that the internet currency speaks the same language as other established currencies," she says. "Media planners are time-poor. It's up to us to get in step with the traditional ways they've been working. For example, in traditional media, reach is talked about in GRPs, but there's no language for this online. Impressions served just isn't good enough...you don't even know if you've reached a person."
Clarken explains that the currency Nielsen provides for the Australian market takes the emphasis off just serving the page, and instead matches this with people who actually saw the page. This confirms that the page was served and to what audience, which she says is "very similar to how programme ratings are compiled in traditional media".
Similarly, Nielsen has rolled out its Online Campaign Ratings service which is able to use panel data to ascertain that an ad that appeared on a page reached the targeted demographic, which is the equivalent of a GRP in traditional media.
"Ultimately, marketers are buying a demographic," she says. "As a website or online media, you need to be able to tell the advertiser that you delivered this demographic. This is why any online currency developed must be people-metric."
This is no easy task however. Clarken says it is extremely hard to recruit people onto online research panels. If you compare it to recruiting for a TV panel, you're looking at getting 10 online panellists for every 1000 calls you make, where TV is more like two to four panellists for every 10 approached.
"An online panel captures everything - every password you type, every porn site you visit - even though none of this data is used and passwords are encrypted. Still, people are reluctant to get involved," she says. "
Difficult as it may be though, a people-metric currency is essential. As is its ability to cut across media platforms. Currencies like AMPS, RAMS and TAMS
come from a single source of respondents, allowing for the cross-survey comparison of people's consumption of print, radio, television, cinema, outdoor and the internet, as well as demographic information, and data on brands, products and services.
"This becomes exponentially more difficult and expensive to do though, as you include more media," says Clarken. "It is often necessary to use fusion methods to bring the existing panels together."The last word
"With digital you can pinpoint and target a specific audience," says Clarken. "You can systematically run campaigns against brand KPIs. You can optimise campaigns in real-time as the numbers come out. You can leverage social media to increase efficiency and effectively connect with consumers.
"So the value of this medium is clear. Now we just need to be sure we can prove it."
*SAARF, the custodian of SA's print, radio, television, outdoor and cinema currencies, has been measuring online over a long period of time to establish baseline information for this fast-growing media sector. The time is now ripe to engage the Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA), which has been a member of SAARF for a number of years, on the need to create an independent currency for online comparable to those of radio, television and print. Clare O'Neil, Chairperson of the SAARF Board, and Dr Paul Haupt, CEO of SAARF, met with the DMMA on Thursday, 19 July 2012, to discuss bringing the online space into the joint-industry fold.
"The DMMA has made the first serious attempt at addressing the need for an audience currency by establishing their own media research, but it is not yet the desired independent, credible industry standard that can only be designed and executed by the tripartite joint industry approach that South Africa has become famous for," says Haupt." The most successful industry currencies are jointly controlled by the media owners, marketers and advertising/media agencies to ensure independence, credibility and buy-in from everyone - the latter being the essential nature of a true currency," he concludes.
**Megan Clarken is the managing director: Media for Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa (APMEA) at Nielsen, Australia. She is also responsible for leading Nielsen's cross platform practice in the APMEA region. She has held numerous roles within Nielsen, including MD of Nielsen's online businesses in the APMEA region, and MD of the company's online business in Australia. She brings more than 20 years of technology, product development and marketing experience to this role.
While in the Australian role, Clarken worked closely with the IAB, MFA and ABA, as well as Nielsen's clients, to improve audience measurement services significantly for the Australian market. She was instrumental in launching Nielsen's RDD panel, the only online panel to have been audited by IAB Australia. Since joining Nielsen in 2004, she managed the company's web analytics product portfolio in Australia, before relocating to New York to take on the role of vice president: Web Analytics and Program Management, where she was responsible for the strategic direction and delivery of the company's overall product development and roadmap.