Ad measurement is key to proving a strategy is driving business impact, getting C-suite buy-in and optimizing strategies. Yet no more than half of US advertisers are satisfied with their campaign measurement across media types, according to an April 2021 Advertiser Perceptions survey. And only 38 percent are satisfied with their digital video measurement solutions.

A new eMarketer report explores the state of ad measurement, focusing on opportunities and challenges in the video space, including why advertisers are reassessing currencies to measure performance and how video ad measurement is expected to change through 2022 as the industry approaches a cross-screen and cross-platform solution.

The report’s three key findings include: 

  • Video ad measurement is a mess. Third-party identifiers are on their way out, which means greater challenges ahead for digital video measurement. Additionally, the industry is without a Media Rating Council-accredited currency as annual upfronts approach.
  • Video ad measurement is evolving. Advertisers stopped settling for siloed insights into campaign performance across video channels. Instead, they’re employing new directives that are helping facilitate cross-screen, cross-platform measurement by addressing challenges concerning data quality, compatibility and accessibility.
  • Video advertisers need to engage with the measurement problem. Though measurement is complicated, letting agencies, networks, measurement firms and ad tech platforms do the dirty work won’t benefit advertisers in the long run.

This year’s ad measurement discussion would be best addressed through the lens of video. With the 2022 upfronts coming up, there’s plenty of competition in the video ad measurement arena.

According to eMarketer’s 2022 forecast, US advertisers will spend just shy of $346 billion on media. Formats across linear TV and digital video—including connected TV (CTV)—will account for roughly 42 percent of total ad spending at $144.55 billion. 

But without a standardized system of measurement that connects the dots across mass and one-to-one advertising in online and offline ecosystems, it’ll be difficult to effectively allocate video budgets that align with changing consumer behavior.

According to an October 2021 Advertiser Perceptions survey, US advertisers ranked video as the most valuable tool for achieving advertising goals. As eMarketer notes, advertisers won’t stop investing in video while the industry works through the measurement challenge; video buyers and sellers will instead have to collaborate to face video ad campaigns this year, conquering ad measurement obstacles along the way. 

Before the industry can achieve cross-screen, cross-platform currencies (ie: those which allow for a fixed amount of inventory to be purchased in advance), that can facilitate holistic views of video investment, ad performance and campaign attribution, a few issues must be addressed. Until recently, it didn’t seem practical to adopt an alternative to Nielsen’s Gross Rating Point (GRP). Now, as eMarketer points out, there’s an array of alternative currencies.

For a transaction to occur, there must be a currency in place. For example, if a network doesn’t reach its forecasted viewership numbers, more ads are run at no extra cost in order to “make good” on the initial agreement. Measurement comes into play because an ad’s value is partially determined by how many consumers it reaches. Take billboards for example—those in high-traffic areas tend to be more expensive than those in low-traffic areas. Other than reach and frequency, the value determination can become subjective.

To constitute a measurement solution as currency-grade, VideoAmp chief measurability officer Josh Chasin cites two requirements: transparent and justifiable data-based methodology and that the output is perceived by the buyer and seller as fair, objective and as accurate as possible. 

On the other hand, television ad measurement data is typically sourced either from people or from machines. People-based panels are comprised of households and individuals whose viewership data is willingly offered. 

These panels come with their own set of challenges—for one, they’re regularly plagued by compliance issues and two, they’re often too small to correctly measure across all entertainment sources. Also, many advertisers activate against very specific and usually small audience segments. For these reasons, adequate measurement should be based on more than just panels.

Machines, on the other hand, include devices like smart TVs and set-top boxes that can generate massive amounts of second-by-second viewership data. And while big data regularly supplies the type of scale required to support analysis of smaller audiences, it comes with its own set of problems. For example, it must be cleaned and calibrated in order to correct errors, mitigate biases and secure accurate representation.

According to eMarketer, any holistic and useful measurement solution will draw from a combination of big data and panels. But data sources aren’t all advertisers have to go off of. Even given the exact same inputs, two measurement providers could reach two different conclusions. Each vendor uses a unique methodology, solutions for glitches in the data and models to apply to the broader population.

In designing and deploying holistic video ad measurement systems that can serve as a currency, measurement partners face several barriers, including:

  • Convoluted data infrastructures that make it difficult to unify disparate data sets
  • Chaos in identity – i.e., the “connective tissue” of ad measurement – resolution
  • Adaptability to the future of privacy compliance and new, disruptive formats and technologies such as the metaverse

According to eMarketer, there’s a seemingly endless supply of newly released or upcoming measurement solutions, which shows the magnitude of the current ad measurement opportunity.

There are two major cross-platform contenders on the third-party front. The first is Nielsen’s Nielsen ONE, which is set to launch in Q4 2022. The first operating version of this solution, Nielsen ONE Alpha, is in testing as of December 2021. The second is Comscore’s Comscore Everywhere product suite, which is rolling out in phases throughout 2022.

Other solutions can be seen also in linear TV’s move away from ad measurement based on programs to ad measurement based on the actual ad. The industry is also shifting toward outcomes-based measurement. While it’s important to know how many people were exposed to a campaign to contextualize any ensuing lift in brand affinity or sales, lift—not campaign exposure—is what advertisers are chasing in their media investment. 

One thing eMarketer is sure of is that the industry won’t be relying solely on Nielsen’s GRP in time for this year’s upfronts, where it estimates that US advertisers will spend $20.57 billion on linear TV alone. Networks are currently working with partners on in-house currency initiatives that are designed to streamline cross-screen, cross-platform measurement for all properties owned and operated by a single system.