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Media Measurement Future of TV Martech

Isba believes Origin is key to cross media measurement – but will advertisers pay?


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

March 28, 2022 | 8 min read

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (Isba) is consulting with advertisers on implementing a levy to help deliver the much-hungered-for cross-media measurement platform Origin. Bobi Carley, Isba’s head of media, explains to The Drum how the product will sate marketers disorientated trying to compare the value of video and TV ad formats.


Top TV buyers argue about how video should be measured and bartered

In January 2022, Isba completed early tests of Project Origin and shared how it will help marketers understand campaign performance sprawling across TV and digital channels – if it could get the platforms on board to show their working. The fragmentation of the last decade has had marketers stumped on how they should assess the effectiveness of each channel and denote comparative values. They’ve been pressuring platforms for a solution.

Isba says Origin will help create a consolidated image of the video ad market and de-duplicate audience reach (using a common identifier). This will enable marketers to focus their spend on reaching new audiences and managing ad frequencies.

Carley tells The Drum: “This project stemmed from advertisers consistently asking for cross-media measurement. There was nothing out there offering true customer measurements.”

After two years of research, Isba will rally for the continued support of the project. It’s got dozens of backers, some courtesy of its affiliation with the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), but many more have been in touch to check out Origin. It is being positioned as a global leader in industry-owned video data “that is used by all facets of the media ecosystem” and the UK will prove the testing ground for the methodology.

Meanwhile, advertisers are being invited to air their grievances about paying the suggested levy – 0.1% of gross media spend on channels measured by Origin. The rates will also be capped to ensure top-spending brands don’t put in more than their fair share. The level of the cap will be one of the variables decided in the eight-week consultation.

The closing date for the consultation will be May 20 2022. Isba will be hosting an online session on April 20 at 3pm for those with questions and the full consultation document can be viewed here.

What advertisers must consider

The Isba team has been building Origin for more than two years, getting stakeholders across the entire media ecosystem to sit at the table, input their data and have their homework corrected. It will plug in a wide array of audience data points across multiple platforms and enable stakeholders to analyze them. This requires transparency and common data currencies, both of which have been lacking to date.

Tech platforms have been keen to guard the value of their multiple-second Feed views or their skippable six-second ads. But with Origin they will now be placed in the bucket alongside broadcasters who boast a bigger screen (usually) and (supposedly) better content – but TV might be lacking in some of the audiences their social peers don’t. At each end of the spectrum are sensitives and platform weaknesses that advertisers would ultimately be best aware of when planning campaigns, and it requires what Carley called “maturity” to get to this stage.

To date, Isba has onboarded Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Amazon, Ozone Project and Bauer Media Group on the tech side, which Carley admits was probably worth a “celebration” in itself. Meanwhile, the TV broadcasters are engaged with the process, albeit at more of a distance with monthly briefings. They too are unsure how their platforms will compare against the digital platforms that supplanted them, but Carley’s confident the project will prove the power of TV. “The closer we can bring them in the better,” admits Carley.

“Broadcasters have got five challenges for Origin – they’ve constantly been on our mind. Not all of them have been ticked but they are all on the roadmap. So we’ll get there but we can’t prove the model until it is up and working.” In the meantime, panel company Barb is plugging in social SVOD and social data to supplement its data.

The trepidation is understandable. A peak-time TVC is not equivalent to a social post – it likely does not meet the same objectives either. “You obviously cannot compare a 30-second TV ad to a six-second social video, they aren’t compatible. The metrics have to be like for like. You can use the data to compare six seconds of a TV ad with a six-second video on YouTube.”

That’s just one approach once the data’s gathered into the platform, although advertisers will likely choose smarter and more useful ways to find whether they are comparatively getting their money’s worth. “They will have choices, which are not there at the moment.” Early tests have indicated the system works and the beta testing starts soon with two major brands.

Carley concludes: “When they see the cost efficiencies and see the effectiveness, they’ll know they were justified in paying the levy. It will be proven and we’ll have actual specific use cases.”

It comes as top TV buyers argue about how video should be measured and bartered. At this early stage, brands each have their own budgets, preferred platforms, market maturity and outcomes to track, and that’ll define how solutions like Origin take shape.

At the core of the debate is how TV is measured. Carley admits that panels have been imperfect. "Panels, being surveys come with an inherent sampling error (you can expect a sampling error of 10% on primetime TV)." There can be an even greater margin or error on these depending on the design of the survey.

"However, when operated correctly, fairly, and independently, they are critical in being the source of truth from which to align other datasets." She adds: "It's fair to say that in the digital space, for far too long we have had an ecosystem of self-reporting and self-validating from media entities, with them marking their own homework, in some cases promising reach delivery greater than the population itself."

She adds that the additive digital elements can help course-correct any panel errors (often occurring due to shared logins or people incorrectly filling their surveys). "We are here to validate reality, not someone's claim."

However, Origin's panels will not be competing with the likes of Barb and Nielsen. "We wont use the outputs of the panel to say how many people watched this programme or saw this ad. We will use it to understand the relationships between different types of behaviors and people, for example, light ITV viewers and their use of YouTube, or Spotify or Facebook."

So far, Origin is funded by Direct Line, Dreams, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, NatWest, Vodafone, Tesco, British Gas, P&G, Unilever, Mars, Diageo, Birds Eye, L’Oréal, BT, GSK, Pepsico, Argos, Sainsbury’s, Lloyds Bank, MoneySupermarket, Camelot, Barclays, and Specsavers. That list will grow if the coming charm offensive succeeds.

Sarah Manfield, vice-president of global media at Unilever, explains how the project works in the below demo. She said it offers extra assurances to planners, is complementary to current planning tools, and will be fully privacy compliant.

Using the virtual ID, the system constructs identities and attempts to link them across platforms based on incoming signals. Carley concludes: "This approach allows us to switch from probabilities to deterministic datasets as they become available, and in an agnostic way. For example, it will be possible to augment the data from our partners with an ID framework, if we knew the impressions delivered to someone on YouTube and someone on ITV Hub were the same user, then we would use this connection within the allocation to a virtual person, not only enriching the demographic estimate of reach but creating a true picture of frequency too."

Check out more of The Drum’s Future of TV stories.

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