Helpful Metrics Still Elude Marketers

Just ahead of last month’s IAB Annual Leadership Summit, IAB released its third quarter numbers for digital advertising.The TL;DR is that Q3 2016 marked the highest third quarter for digital advertising spending on record, and represented a 20 percent increase over the same time period in 2015. It also accounted for a 4.3 percent increase over Q2 2016. So digital advertising is still rising like a hockey stick.

But if you are a marketer about to spend some of the $17.6 billion that was spent in Q3, you would probably want some assurance that you are not wasting your money. After all, there are ad blockers, there’s ad fraud, there’s fake news, and there are all manner of other distractions that might prevent you from getting ROI. And at least on TV you knew where your dollars were going. Nielsen could always tell you, right?

Now it seems as if Nielsen, too, is having trouble figuring out how to tell marketers to spend their money. A new syndicated product from Nielsen, Total Content Ratings, was expected out on March 1, in time for the upfronts and the newfronts. According to Ad Age, that release date was scrapped by the parties to the data. “The syndicated product, which would show the public the results of cross-platform measurement for every network that implemented the technology, will have to wait. No new target date to syndicate the data was established.”

In other words, cross platform measurement isn’t ready for prime time, according to the people who participated in its development. We translate that as some networks not being as happy with their results as others.  Those that aren’t happy are telling Nielsen they’re not happy with the Total Content Ratings methodology or the amount of labor it takes to deploy it. However, some networks actually are happy, so Nielsen is saving face by allowing those networks to share data.

So Nielsen is letting each network choose the numbers it wants from the data, and marketers won’t be able to compare one network to another.


All sides of the TV industry are closely watching Nielsen’s effort to deliver a new ratings system that counts all viewing no matter where it takes place, including streaming platforms and mobile devices, in the hopes that they will rediscover some of the consumers that have disappeared each year from traditional TV audiences. But that goal continues to elude them.

The bottom line is that this data will not help marketers make good decisions during the upfronts season. We may talk a lot about the goodness of big data, but that’s only until we really try to use it.