In Audience Measurement

Last week, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) invited Verto to participate in a day-long event, “Clash of Platforms or Big Blur? How Brands and Publishers Are Connecting with Consumers” hosted at Leo Burnett’s super cool offices in Chicago.

We spoke alongside some of the world’s leading brands, publishers, and agencies including CNN, ESPN, Pinterest, Tencent (WeChat), Publicis, Kraft Heinz and a few others. We covered a range of facts and figures about the digital consumer; if not merely to emphasize what they already believe, consumer-centric measurement has become the gold standard for cross-platform measurement.

Consumer behavior has changed more in the last five years than in the last 50. We used to sit with our families on a Saturday evening and watch a variety show at 7pm—just like everyone else in the nation. If we did anything else while watching television, it was knitting or eating a TV dinner. Ratings and viewership were measured based on this reliable, predictable consumer activity: many people watching the same program at the same time on one kind of device.


Just a few decades later, that consumer behavior paradigm has completely changed. Suffice it to say that marketers today indeed have a big blur on their hands. Investment in digital ads is stronger than in any other media. But how are consumers reacting to the barrage of information and content that is available across multiple platforms? And from a marketers’ perspective, is any of it effective?

Tellingly, not one person in the room said, “Oh, we’ve got this. Here’s exactly what you need to do or measure…” Nope, they are still grappling with the same issues as ever. Despite the expanding availability of analytics and data, precise measurement and attribution remain elusive: how can I sell more, make more money, and then explain to my boss what worked? The brand marketers, digital publishers, and agency folks brought the conversation back to three main principles: context, authenticity, and ROI.

  • Context Matters.

Fun fact: in the TV world, the head-honcho television producer has a digital counterpart. This digital producer (DP) sits in all creative and content meetings because they have to figure out how to rework a given show or film into multiple digital formats which absolutely cannot be “resized to fit your screen.”

The content has to be re-packaged for various platforms—content or devices. That’s because consumer context has to be anticipated. Where that consumer is, in a digital (e.g. mobile) or linear (TV) sense, when he or she tunes into you, matters a lot—it’s the difference between switching or staying. Consumers want convenience, and we just have to accept that and do the hard work of embracing new platforms as long as they make sense for our brands.

As Nathalie Bordes, VP of Business Intelligence at CBS Interactive summarized, “We need to utilize every distribution channel that is out there to reach audiences and provide content they want in the format they want…”

  •  Authenticity is not a fake value.

Authenticity is something that a Gen Z-er cares about a lot. They know the biggest YouTubers are getting paid to push product, but their fans are okay with that and feel really connected to these influencers because they are passionate about what they do. When asked how THEY would advertise a product, 54% of Gen Z-ers said they’d devote most of their budget first to influencer marketing.

Research from Fullscreen Media found that the typical Gen Z-er spent a day (24 hours) each week on video clips and social – that’s triple the amount of time they spend on homework and much more time than they spent on linear TV:

“Growing up in a completely digital world, they [Gen Z] expect to have direct access to friends, celebrities, and brands – and they expect all three to interact and share content in a way that’s relevant to their own personal interests and passions.”

For CNN, of course, a different kind of authenticity has taken center stage. Fake news—whether from the White House or bot-created “stories” on Facebook—has given a new kind of credibility to the news in today’s fragmented media environments. In fact, 74% of adults say that real news sites are more important than ever. And all news sites–whether TV and digital–are getting a lift. In fact, this may be the new Golden Age of media. But credibility remains a key issue: it’s also the #1 challenge for media buyers–brand safety, viewability, ad fraud are major concerns.

  • ROI is the absolute bottom line.

At the end of the day, it’s all about selling more products. Brand lift and consideration are just metrics. Did you sell more? Did all your marketing efforts pay off? Where should you reinvest?

The key to this knowledge is measuring and achieving more transparency in doing so. Both Kraft Heinz and Constellation Brands complained there’s just too much data, frankly, and there are so many variables that it’s difficult to parse them apart to even answer the question: Did it sell? For these brands especially, people-based measurement of activity—beyond stated intent or brand consideration—is so very crucial. Did that click or swipe lead to a purchase? “Why can’t we get to that ROI more quickly?” asked Allen Whitestone from Kraft Heinz.


Interested in seeing our consumer-centric data? Download the presentation here. And for more insights, subscribe to our newsletter, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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