Optimism in the Face of Dramatic Change. ARF AUDIENCExSCIENCE Conference

For those of us who work in the media measurement space, the annual ARF measurement conference has always been a must-attend.  This year, topics ranged from the standardization of cross platform metrics, ad length, attribution, privacy and the uses of new technology like artificial intelligence to facilitate data insights. 

My impression is that measurement evolution is finally gaining traction with more collaboration between competing companies (Think: OpenAP), more efforts to create new standardized metrics and data labeling (CIMM and the IAB) and the end of business-as-usual constraints (ad lengths that vary from 6 seconds plus).

Three Big Trends
According to Scott McDonald, President and CEO, ARF, there are three major trends advancing in the industry. The first is “making progress with cross-platform audience measurement that is keeping up with technology and consumers—and if not, what the impediments are and how we can up our game.”

The second trend is breaking out of ad length constraints so as to more fully leverage platform and device viewing behaviors. The implementation of short-form ads, some as short as six seconds, is one possible solution. “But there are still questions around their effectiveness, how to best deploy them, and how they may affect the consumer’s frustration with ad clutter,” McDonald averred.

The third trend concerns privacy. “Marketing has been in a headlong race toward ever more precise targeting, fueled by the rise of big data, data analytics, and multi-touch attribution,” he noted. “Now, however, targeting is a risk with signs of consumer mistrust in how data is being used (from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and its follow-on effects), and the continued impact of the rollout of GDPR, an EU law with global implications.” 

However, McDonald cannot predict how the concern over privacy will unfold, how it could impact the media ecosystem, or whether there will be regulatory restrictions on data-driven targeting. “The industry has to evaluate whether it has gone too far in its zeal for targeting – so much so as to diminish advertising ROI and damage relations with consumers,” he concluded.

Changing the Current Metrics to Better Measure Cross Platform
There are those who believe that it is time to find a new standard metric for media that goes beyond age and gender. There is so much useful data out there that can craft a more nuanced and targeted audience measurement that we only need to come together as an industry and craft a more appropriate cross platform metric. But, in reality, it is not that easy. 

For some, Nielsen is and will be the standard. Dave Morgan, CEO Simulmedia, believes that, “Nielsen will be the gold standard of TV measurement well into the future.” But, he expects an evolution with, “core panel ratings enhanced with much more granular measurements that capture much deeper characteristics of audiences reached at the person/impression level and also real attribution to the delivery of desired business outcomes.” He added that we are already seeing some of this enhanced measurement in the marketplace and he expects to see it become a very significant part of the measurement mix by the end of 2020.

For others, the reason why the industry moves slowly is that there are different crediting qualifiers for the same measurements on different platforms. Consensus on which rules should be used for all platforms is an important next step. Josh Chasin, Chief Research Officer, comScore explained that for Live TV/DVR/TV VOD and OOH, credit for the full minute is given based off of who has the plurality of seconds in a given minute. Linear Mobile and Computer has a 30-second qualifier where credit is given only after a full 30 seconds of viewing has occurred. Dynamic Mobile and Computer currently has no qualifier but the MRC standard is 2 seconds with 50% of the ad viewable. How can these be reconciled and equated?

Consumers Continue to Rule
“We’re seeing a huge shift in viewing habits,” said Dan Robbins, Roku’s head of ad research. “Recent research of our cord cutting users shows that 78 percent think cable is too expensive, 57 percent believe there are too many channels, while 80 percent still watch as much TV as they did before they cut the cord. Streaming has become mainstream.”

But Linda Yaccarino, Chairman, Advertising and Client Partnerships, NBCUniversal, believes in the power of television because it offers premium content that is an unbeatable draw for audiences and advertisers. All of this talk about the power of digital is a false narrative, she posited. When advertisers are enticed by cheap CPMs for lower quality content, they fail to understand “the relative value of content they are getting.”

Maybe it’s all semantics. For Megan Clarken, President, Watch, Nielsen, it is all video no matter what device is being used. She explained that “from a measurement perspective, our job is to find comparable measurement across video,” placing TV as “part of the digital industry.”

Despite the continuing upheaval and viewer erosion on certain platforms, “I am extremely optimistic about the future,” Yaccarino stated, and added, “We need to challenge legacy. It is impacting all of our businesses all around. Why are we afraid of change? We have permission to change.” Change is certainly in the air. Now it is time to take a big breath and move decisively forward.

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Entering Ultimate Revelation. A Recap of the CoreConnect Conference

Digital marketing is one of those moving targets in media but Touseef Mirza and Brooke Vines, Co-Founders, CoreConnect Conference, strive to hammer home some constants. The CoreConnect Conference, recently held in NYC offered, as Mirza notes, “best practices for modern digital marketing, how to understand yourself as a media consumer and empathize to your target audience, how to connect and get the best work for your team and ultimately how to take the message out to the consumer in way that resonates.”

According to Mirza, while we are witnessing a time of amazing digital communication advancement, there has been tremendous focus on digital outputs at the expense of basic human interaction. But, “technology and digital cannot solve all of our problems,” she concluded.

Charlene Weisler: What did you hope to accomplish at CoreConnect?

Touseef Mirza: The conference was created to address the confusion and overwhelm that people feel when dealing with marketing in the digital age. We provided insights on how to create impact by focusing on key characteristics of the human element in marketing as well as best practices of connection and influence in the digital age. A comprehensive and human approach is needed to create impact: first by connecting with ourselves to lead effectively, then by building a strong, harmonious creative team, and finally by influencing audiences in an authentic way. We showcased how to make confident marketing decisions in an overwhelming and ever-changing digital world. 

Weisler: What were some of the main speakers' points? Highlights?

Mirza: Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus of DDB, presented “Digital Disruption or Digital Distraction?” Brand building does not occur by mainly emphasizing digital and technology initiatives—but instead by stating a strong and effective brand definition that is consistent across all touchpoints and by developing a brand that connects with basic human drives and unchanging human emotions. We are entering an era of the ultimate revelation which will combine what we have learned from the creative revolution about humanity with the wondrous technology brought to us by the digital disruption. 

Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer of Vaynermedia presented “Why Focusing on Culture Works.”  Corporate culture has lost its way. We need to realize that people who work in an organization are human beings, not just “employees”. In order to develop a harmonious team, to harness innovative ideas, and build a thriving business, it all starts by creating a space that is safe, both physically and psychologically, to bring their best selves and by celebrating the uniqueness of every individual in the company.

As Debbie Millman, Chair of Masters in Branding, SVA and Host of the Podcast Design Matters, presented in her panel, “Advertising in the Age of an Awakened Culture.” Branding and advertising as we have known it since the past century, is dead. It is now democratized and owned by the people and pushed up to the corporations who have to take notice. This change has gradually happened since the past 10 years with the advent of the Internet, social media, and activism. Topics covered included Tapping into the power of controversy and cultural relevance through the foundation of a human truth; How concepts of community, identity, and individuality are intertwined in the digitized world; Translating an abstract system of brand values in a concrete manner (and internalized in the team members); and Understanding the audience from a user-centered perspective to create a brand that truly resonates.

Weisler: How can one put the results of the conference into action in the workplace?

Mirza: From a leadership standpoint, it helps you connect authentically with your own wisdom and what makes you human to make more confident and effective business decisions that will influence other humans. You can apply different strategies on how to create a culture in the workplace that is safe and nurturing so that the most innovative and creative ideas can actually sprout—which will help your organization and offerings differentiate itself and help succeed in a saturated marketplace. Finally, by understanding the consumer in an objective and truthful way and what they resonate with, companies can position their products in a more meaningful light that connects with the audience in a compelling way. 

Weisler: What do you see as the future in media in the next 3-5 years?

Mirza: "Nobody ever got famous predicting that things would stay pretty much the same." – Bob Hoffman, the Ad Contratian. Strategies we use today will still be around for the next 3-5 years, although the tactics may change as the technology evolves. The way we structure and manage teams is beginning to change. As Gen C, The YouTube Generation, ages, the silos that have made up the traditional agency model will finally crumble and the people who will do the best work in getting through to them are the hybrid workers and departments. It will become increasingly more difficult for the creative department to concept messaging without working side-by-side with media and PR and taking channels into consideration. 

We will see more authentic influencer marketing as the trend shifts from big named influencers who don’t necessarily believe in what they are selling to the micro-influencers who organically build a following on user-generated platforms. More people will learn how to monitor social conversations which hopefully means that instead of overwhelming chatter, customers will have an experience that is much more personal and relevant to them. We are learning how data serves us and where it doesn’t. It’s getting better every day. Privacy and having control of your own data is going to continue to be a predominant issue, which will drive the majority of the marketing decisions we are making. In the end, it’s still going to be reaching people where they are and having a conversation with them that is relevant that they opt into. 

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Mediacom’s Andy Littlewood Has the Data Knowledge

What exactly is a Head of Knowledge, I asked Andy Littlewood. “It’s someone who gets a lot of questions!” he responded. His role as Head of Knowledge at Mediacom is, “to make sure our clients benefit from the full knowledge we have. That means getting clients the right tools, systems and data to inform their decisions.”

Littlewood started his career at Mediacom in Scotland, spent some time at Aegis and PHD and returned to MediaCom as the Chief Data and ROI Officer in Australia before moving to the U.S. as the Head of Knowledge NA, in 2015. His data acumen has been credited with winning new business such as Whole Foods, Uber, MetLife, Sony, Uniqlo and Bose. 

Charlene Weisler: What type of data do you capture and use?

Andy Littlewood: We capture and leverage every kind: business performance, audience, location, web interest, shopper… there are no limits to what we might consider useful, given our clients’ needs and business objectives. Each data set is assessed based on the unique value it can provide.

Weisler: How has the industry changed since you first started?

Littlewood: Brands still want to build lasting, profitable relationships with consumers. What’s changed is how that happens, including how much more complicated everything has become. Marketers started with one or just a couple of advisors then sought a stable of specialists (when the internet first emerged and digital was thought to be an entirely different world) and now clients are coming back to the idea that there is greater value in an integrated approach. Programmatic and other tools have kicked off this same cycle again, and I’m not sure that these new processes are in service of building brands or just driving cost efficiency.  

Weisler: You have international experience. Is there is difference on a global level in how data is used? 

Littlewood: The US definitely has more data, but with that comes more challenges. I call it the paradox of big data: it’s great to have location data sets of 50MM plus, shopper data sets that cover most households and many other options, but what we often forget is that each data set only reflects one aspect of the total consumer. Not enough time is spent really validating the use or accuracy of big data sets, their skews and their true predictive value.

Weisler: How can you tell which data is good and usable and which data is not? (I assume it varies by project?)

Littlewood: Test it. A data set is only as valuable as the information it provides. Each data component has a cost and can be combined in elaborate ways, but is the cost really worth it and does it drive your business or brand? Structured testing is the way to find out.

Weisler: What has the response been from your clients in the data results? Has it changed their strategies and focus?

Littlewood: Every client we have is trying to achieve growth in competitive marketplaces. The data results we generate are often the extra inches that help them get ahead. Every client is responsive to data insights that drive their business.

Weisler: How do you tailor the language of data to make it less wonky to your various internal and external client groups?

Littlewood: I live by a very important maxim: if I can’t explain it to my mom (nearly), it’s not ready for communication.

Weisler: How do you think privacy is perceived in data usage? And has it changed with recent events. 

Littlewood: Consumer consent is at the heart of so much of what we do today. Marketers want to pay for real consumers interested in their services, and consumers want to see relevant messaging and understand how their information is being used. Additional privacy requirements ultimately help bring trust back to the equation.  

Weisler: How will privacy concerns impact your future work?

Littlewood: Policies that emphasize privacy, data quality and governance have a positive effect. With limits on spurious or poorly-collected data, the quality of the remaining data will improve, which is good news for marketers and consumers alike.

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Lotame Ignite Americas Conference Focuses on the Power of Data

Data has (finally) become the force for change in our industry. Not only have many media companies devoted much of their upfronts about it, but Lotame's inaugural Ignite Americas forum last week expanded the discussion of how data can be used to improve ROI, upend legacy measurements, tell a story and totally restructure a company. It is finally revenge of the nerds. 

Data Attributes Have Evolved
There is so much data available from first, second and third party data that the parameters of what constitutes a valuable dataset have evolved. Previously, data size was one of the paramount requests. Do we have a large enough sample approaching census that will get us stable results? Now, with the complexity and sophistication of data availability, the wants have shifted from size to data quality. The components of data quality are Transparency (Do we understand the data attributes and origins?) Accuracy (Are we getting actionable successful results?) and Performance (Do the results deliver on the KPIs and/or ROI?).

Data expert Joyce Lee, Director Global Data Sales Strategy, Oath, has seen her role evolve from accumulating third party data to finding ways to "sync all first party data in the Oath family." Data stitching is like cooking, she noted, from having the right ingredients, to blending them together to serving a final, perfect result. Michelle Mirshak, Vice President Data Architecture and Platforms, Spark Foundry, noted that "Some of our more sophisticated clients are asking us to normalize data across channels to better track performance," as the data is analyzed in a more holistic way. The importance of data quality cannot be understated. According to Mirshak, whether it is third, second or first party data, "it all comes down to performance," because quality is not just a first party data attribute.

Data From Collection to Insights
Alejandro Matos, Digital Marketing Director, Omnicom Media Group, Dominican Republic and The Caribbean, explained the challenge he faced in generating insights for a local retailer who had limited data on its online consumers. “We needed to come up with a way to capture data,” he said. His work in capturing data that explained the consumer journey focused on a variety of sources - from placing beacons in various locations in the store, launching a DMP, CRM on social media and on apps, placing pixels in banner ads, gathering data on mobile, emails, websites, from multiple sources and then matched with third party data before modeling.

The result was the ability to more clearly understand the consumer journey, but it was putting the collection structure into place that made all the difference. Is every data project unique and custom? Not necessarily, according to Matos. The collection methods may be similar across clients but the insights and stories that can be crafted from the data, even from similar data sets, will differ.

A Move From Legacy Metrics to Segmentation and Attribution
With the availability of sophisticated datasets, it is time for the industry to move away from legacy age and gender demographics. According to Chris Frazier, Vice President Business Intelligence, Cadent Network, his company uses data to, “build what that audience will be” by building out a target consumer beyond age and gender, to “reach the intended target at the right time.” He added that linking to linear TV using traditional Nielsen to digital platform performance is a challenge, impeding the ability to measure and guarantee standardize-able sales deliveries across platforms. “We would like to see uniformity in how we measure impressions. Is it two seconds? Is it a minute? We want to see industry standards,” he stated. When it comes to addressable, attribution is key. “Attribution allows you to connect your exposures to where the sales are. It’s a measure of ROI to media spend.”  

The TV industry is beginning to embrace the use of consumer data in measurement in conjunction with demographic data enabling cross platform measurement. The need for a holistic, unified view of audiences and campaigns has never been greater and is essential for the evolution of the advertising industry. As data advocate, Andy Monfried, Founder and CEO, Lotame, concluded in his opening keynote, the requirements of a DMP is to unify disparate datasets to target the right audiences, extend a brand’s position to find and reach new customers and to better understand a consumer journey through greater personalization. This requires internal buy-in, retaining talent and aligning the strategic corporate vision to better understand and execute on the data insights. We are at the beginning stages. For the industry and for a company like Lotame, it should be an exciting and ground-breaking time going forward.

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