The Consumer and the Marketer, changing Relationships, changing Measurement?

In the past it was simple: you had television, radio, print, and a little bit of outdoor and cinema. All advertisers and media professionals started a campaign using 70% television and 30% supportive print and radio. The costs were defined in the exchange rate delivered by the currencies TAM, RAM and NRS that were available as cross industry solutions. (I know it was not that simple).   Total campaign evaluation was either nonexistent or done using proprietary campaign trackers commissioned by the advertiser.


Audience measurement was (is) linked to one medium only and the boundaries of that medium were clear and impenetrable, so you could use the metaphor “Silo”.

We even decided that the internet could be the next silo and started measuring the internet as such, as a medium.  But “silo “was never a title of honor; it was a dirty word from the moment we realized that the metaphor was wrong.   From that moment on audience measurement has bordered on chaos.


Regardless, some of the old business models in commercial communications are still in play:

  • Advertisers are primarily interested in the total ROI of their campaigns, so their audience research is focused on cross-media coverage.  Because of the way our industry works, advertisers are more focused on the evaluation of their advertising ROI than in planning and buying; those parts are outsourced to the media agencies.
  • Advertising is an investment and a cost, so the aim is to combine maximum impact with minimum costs. Advertisers that use their ad trackers seriously have the tendency to reduce costs by eliminating those media that do not contribute to the ROI. So a 10% cost reduction without loss of ROI is an asset.
  • Media owners are mostly relying on the impact that their content and ads have on the consumer. For them 10% less rating or readership means 10% less advertising income (as a rule of thumb), so audience measurement is lifesaving or life threatening; at least it is too important to ignore.  Therefore media owners are the main investors of the big cross- industry audience measurements. Owners of television stations want TV ratings that are indisputable and preferable high enough to continue and safeguard their business. The same is true for other media owners. (Media owners like the BBC are in the same position, but their business relations are with the public and the government).
  • Media agencies are the brokers of media transactions; in some countries they earn their money from both sides, in some countries only from one side. (In some countries we don’t know). There are Media agencies that service their advertising clients with campaign trackers, but their main business model is in the planning and buying process. Higher or lower ratings do not hurt them at all. Their new profit model is in programmatic buying (online ads served to relevant online consumers).It is more profitable because this business is still in a “Bonanza” phase and the media agency fees are not yet regulated like in the television, radio and print buying business.


We have to admit that, as an industry, we made a mistake to see the Internet as a completely new medium. It is not, at least not for the large segment that is non-search and non-transaction.  The Internet acts as a means of transport for (existing) content like television, radio and text and pictures.


Giving the internet the status of a separate medium can cause misunderstandings in our industry conversations.  In fact, much of the chaos in the conversation is created because we do not use clear definitions for all kind of new and old issues we have.   If we want a decent discussion we have to agree on global definitions and try to avoid elastic definitions that some people can stretch and others do not.


Some simple examples of discussions with elastic definitions:


  • What is a medium and what is in the “research silo”? Why is YouTube not television?
  • What is analog? The consumer does not know when his device is acting analog and when digitally.
  • What is digital? Almost all our devices are digital, only the elderly (used to analog), realize that now most content comes digitally.
  • What is online? Online used to be the definition of being connected, but nowadays we often don’t know. (Is an app always online?)
  • What is a device; is mobile a family of devices or a new medium?
  • What is streaming video and is it part of the medium television, or is the definition of the medium television restricted to video consumption on the device the label is referring to?  So if we watch streaming video on a device that is called a (smart) television, is that part of the medium-research-silo television or part of the silo digital, or is digital a research-silo but not a medium?  But watching the six o’ clock news live (nowadays called linear) on a smart phone is in the TAM silo, is it, or is it not?
  • Sometimes a digital extension of media consumption is clearly in the related research silo, but we cannot measure it properly, and therefore it is excluded. (Like pdf extensions of printed media).

As the above shows we are mixing definitions and stretch or limit them in our discussions.


Because mobile media consumption is new, we want to know what content is watched on what device. But that could be very temporary. In the near future we may not be interested in knowing if certain content is viewed, read or listened on a small, bigger or big screen; whether the content is consumed online or down loaded or app-et. Of course nowadays we want to know because we don’t know what consumers do with our digital extensions and new and old content on new devices, but are we sure that in 2020  we still want to know whether the newspaper was read on paper or on the tablet? (Supposing the content is equal)?


We have to live with new devices and new means of transport of content that changes the way consumers connect with content that sometimes is commercially branded, or combined with commercial messages of all kind. Content that is either text with stills or is combined with streaming video. We are used to sending commercial messages to everybody watching a television program, and call them commercials: but it is “new” to send a commercial message to those who booked a flight to New York yesterday (and call it targeted programmatic buying) but in essence it’s the same. Fragmentation and targeting have found new ways of media planning.


So maybe it is time for a new set of definitions!


Maybe the following is a way to organize the chaos:




First, three media concepts that focus on what the consumer does to the content:

1. Viewing moving pictures: Video

2. Listening only: Audio

3. Reading: Text and pictures



Second, how is the content transported:

1. Analog, like a paper route.

2. Digital direct distribution, like digital cable or satellite. Call it Push

3. Digital individual online, like streaming on You Tube, so consumer action is required. Call it Pull.



Third, what kind of device is the consumer using to consume the content:

  1. No electronic device, like paper, or billboard.
  2. Audio only devices, both analog and digital.
  3. Fixed digital screens like televisions.
  4. Mobile digital screens like lap tops, smart phones and tablets.

(Is it of interest that sometimes you can use the device also for other purposes?)


As you can see there is no place for the Internet in this new house of definitions, because the internet is everything: transporting all media, creating new communication, like search and social, on all digital devices. The way we transport the content is becoming less relevant to the consumer; it only matters when we discuss details of measurement. The same is true with the device: less important for the consumer and more important for the advertiser and more difficult for the researchers.


The classical readership research measures newspapers and magazines (print). The aim is to measure the impact/readership of the magazine or newspaper and not the impact of an individual ad. Readership figures say nothing about the impact of the color spread in a glossy vs a small insert in a newspaper. Our new building of definitions does not solve this “shortcoming” either.

We have to bear in mind that planning and buying the media vehicles for a campaign is different from the creative process of designing the campaign. Off course there are links with the choice of media vehicle in the creative process and vice versa but the processes are different.

Therefore the results of a campaign tracker cannot be compared or cannot replace ratings and readership figures.



We need to discuss the house of new definitions and agree on what belongs together and what is different, no matter if we can measure it now or in the future. I fully realize that this does not solve the measurement problems we have and will have in the near future but at least it makes our discussions less chaotic.  I also realize that there is the complex impact of time in media consumption and in measurement that I have not included in my new house of definitions.


So how does this help us to design new audience measurement?


When we start with the three main building blocks, viewing, listening and reading, we see the following Audience Measurement landscape.


  1. Viewing (moving pictures):
  • Television Audience Measurement will be the major tool for measuring viewing analog, digital and streaming video.
  • Video however is no longer the exclusive domain of television stations, so YouTube, the social networks and also news sites of print publishers and radio stations deliver streaming video.
  • Television and other video are coming to the consumer in numerous ways, still off air, cable, satellite, but increasingly online.
  • The television device is still the major device used but other screens are catching up quickly.

So this leads the way to the concept of measuring total viewing:   everything that is consumed on any screen at any moment.  Maybe we have to accept that this is practically impossible, even if we combine all data sources in a hybrid way and fuse and connect everything. We have to make decisions and categorize the big ocean of video content.

Maybe we can make an important first category to measure the content that was at least once “served” to the public by someone (a broadcaster?) who is a member or a client of our measuring service. That looks like an old silo membership, but when You Tube and HBO signs up TAM they are in that category and their market share as part of total viewing of the population is measured. In this way we can define other categories, as we like to be useful in the market. It gives us a definition of what is counted as 100% in every category. And it shows clearly what we can and cannot measure. Some of this viewing will be far down the long tale and we can decide not to measure it. We do not need to measure total viewing single source in a panel, but we can use several sources, and combine, fuse, or validate several sources.


  1. Listening

An easy definition as listening gives us clear boundaries of what to measure. However there is an interesting overlap with viewing, both in music and in speech, because a lot of the moving pictures we have put in A, is also audibly consumed by the public with and without the pictures. I’ve never understood why MTV- type of television is not being measured as part of Radio Audience Measurement. For example, most modern radio meters are able to measure 80% or more of the viewing behavior.  So this leads the way to total listening and forces us to define categories of audio content we want to separate: just an example

  • Audio from radio stations whether analog or digitally consumed.
  • Audio consumed in consumer viewing sessions.
  • Audio from CD’s, Spotify-type of services and other audio sources. We even can use the same radio/audio meter and define the categories we want to report together or separately.


  1. Reading

Reading is an easy concept definition to understand. We do it as consumers from paper, from screens of different origin, sometimes with audio in the background etc. (It makes life easier if we exclude reading subtitles of foreign language film and video).   More and more we see a mix both in consuming and in serving of printed text and pictures and the same or similar content on digital devices. Books, newspapers and magazines have got a second life in the digital world. There are even new forms of digital text-media like news sites and news applications that have no printed origin. Today this phenomenon is so new in many countries that the publishers of these digital text services want to know which one is read on paper and which on a screen and even more on what screen device through which platform type with which type of browser. That makes our researchers’ life more difficult. It is inevitable that in 5 or 10 years’ time those publishers and their advertisers are not interested anymore in those details. Their content and their ads will be spread over various different and lookalike products, being newspapers, news sites, news apps, etc.

Maybe we are lucky that the measurement of readership of newspapers and magazines is still done based on a questionnaire. If we accept, worldwide, that a reader is able to remember what title he has read, in a certain time frame, on paper, than it is likely a reader will be able to remember reading the same content digitally. Or we could say that we have to accept the same margin of error in his memory. A complicating factor is that the publishers have the tendency to use the same proven media brand to serve the consumer with slightly different new products which makes the readers memory less reliable on what brand extension he has read. However, most digitally served “to read” content measured single source on a questionnaire can be validated by means of digital measurement, sometimes both site centric and individually in a separate sample.



Do these three building block definitions cover everything?


These three building blocks give us the freedom to make sub-building blocks that would help us explain better what it means and what can be measured and what not. It even gives us the freedom to make a decision to put some media outside the framework. For example, certain news sites that have no content connection with reading, listening, and viewing separately, but that are media titles which are cross media in origin. These news sites/apps are served by online publishers that have an origin in all old silos. May be these cross viewing/listening/reading titles are a new category in itself?







Back to the advertiser and his campaign:


We cannot stop progress and improvement of commercial communication. So advertisers and their media experts will try and find new ways of communication, and innovators in the digital domain will find new ways of communicating to the relevant target group. We cannot say; “stop, we have not yet categorized your new tool in our system, and we don’t know yet how to measure it”.

The advertiser demands to know what the relative contribution is of each of the different means of communications, old and new, to his campaign. So for the near future we have to be creative in finding new research tools to show the consumer journey in relation to the total picture of a communication strategy and the actual campaign. Several attempts and innovative campaign evaluation methodologies have been tested, and we all have to learn from those who are willing to share their experiences with the industry in conferences and publications. We have to realize that campaign trackers, as ingenious they are, are only showing which medium and platform did contribute well to the ROI and which did less. It obviously tells us nothing about those media and platforms that were not included and what they might have contributed to the ROI. Media planning is only possible if we measure all media, including the ones we did not plan in our campaign.

So we still need media planning based on sound data that gives a reasonable prediction of consumer media behavior.



1. From now on we need to avoid unclear definitions and reach a common understanding. The words television, print, mobile and many others have must be avoided when we discussed media or, at the very least, clarified. The industry needs to avoid new sexy hyped words that nobody really understands. (“Targeting dynamic advertising insertion” looks like a simple concept, but not everybody using this term makes the effort to explain the meaning).


2. Also a new house of definitions needs discussion and clarification. Using a new concept of “Total viewing” without explanation what subcategories are in it and what not, does not help. We also need to build the bridge between the old definitions and the new ones.


3. There was and there still will be a world of differences between basic audience measurement intended for planning and buying and campaign tracking meant to measure ROI. Although ROI measurement can give us insights in the impact of some new campaign vehicles, it cannot replace audience measurement.







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