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Analysis: Decoding Nielsen's new 'privacy-centric' cross-platform measurement

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Research firm Nielsen has unveiled a new digital measurement methodology that aims to provide "comparable, cross-platform metrics" for marketers and publishers as it looks to adapt ongoing changes in the technology, privacy landscape and decreasing reliance on cookies.

Nielsen’s Digital Measurement suite will include its Digital Content Ratings, Total Content Ratings, Digital in TV Ratings, Digital Ad Ratings and Total Ad Ratings. The suite will be underpinned by features such as Nielsen's data collection technology, diverse third-party partner assets, a proprietary network of walled gardens and platform data providers, an ecosystem of publishers across the open web with scaled data, and privacy-centric audience de-duplication methodologies.

Nielsen will also be combining its television and digital data assets onto a single platform, which makes it able to more efficiently provide holistic measurement across all premium video, which is becoming increasingly important to advertisers and the industry. According to a press release, the new methodology will provide comparability and transparency across third-parties and the open web, broaden coverage and deepen granularity of reporting of personal and connected devices, and foster more resilience in measurement by reducing reliance on third-parties and unreliable digital identifiers.

With Nielsen’s new methodology, the company said media owners will be able to better monetise their assets, optimise spend and make comparisons across media. In addition, media buyers will be able to validate cross-platform campaign delivery and make guarantees based on Nielsen TV ratings data. The new methodology will be rolled out in phases beginning in early 2021. Mainak Mazumdar, chief data and research officer at Nielsen, added that this move is essential to providing the industry with cross-media measurement that empowers buyers and sellers to optimise their spend.

Karthik Rao, chief operating officer of Nielsen, said the company expects these investments to drive significant value for the rapidly growing digital ecosystem. “We believe these changes will also position our clients to monetise their assets today into the future," he added. Rao also said Nielsen has been focused on transitioning the brand to become a platform company over the last year where the company will stay nimble enough to adapt new technology, data and regulatory changes.

A sweet response to a cookie less world?
Florian Lacombe, head of activation, Media Group, Dentsu Aegis Network Singapore said since the announcement made by Google earlier this year to stop cookies support, a lot of companies have been struggling to provide an answer that future-proof their services. In the case of Nielsen, it is strengthening its measurement services and the required data collection, which is definitely a strategic move to ensure its business model viability in a world with no cookies.

Moreover, for a company like Nielsen, which started over 90 years ago dealing with surveys, the latest move is indeed a fundamental change. The new methodology allows it to take a more privacy-centric approach and relies on partnerships with walled gardens rather than just cookies and IDs.

“Through the walled gardens, Nielsen has a direct access to the data without any interaction with the audience - not even a tag. The solution should progressively become more resilient and more accurate as it grows the partnerships,” he said. Moreover, this approach should then be able to standardise the measurement and the audiences across markets globally, making it compatible with the different legal environments.

“I would also assume that the data is available in pseudo real-time through partnerships, which is very valuable for marketers as they will be able to react faster. With constant daily changes in a COVID world, this may be the most important improvement,” he added.

Although the specifics of the new methodology have not been revealed Neeraj Gulati, partner at Entropia Global, said the concept of offline and online has been dead for a while, and we are living in a truly platform agnostic marketing era. As such, a cross-platform measurement system is a fundamental aspect to the optimisation technique. Gulati also said the industry has been using its own methods and formulas to arrive at a cross-platform metrics that can be the closest to measure true reach and a cross platform outcome. Thus, the cross-platform measurement could provide more clarity and consistency.

"It took a long time for the TV metrics of rating points to be accepted by all quarters of the organisations. It is a journey and this might just be another step in getting closer to an industry level acceptance," he added. When asked how it will benefit its clients, Gulati said a cross-platform measurement would enable agencies to optimise on the fly for a better outcome and help publishers demand the right price for the inventory.

On a similar stance, an industry player who spoke to Marketing on the condition of anonymity, said by enabling a single-view of the consumer's media consumption, it will help brands plan media better, leading to more efficiency and effectiveness.This new methodology could be significant since it does not rely on cookies, and partners first-party data providers, he added.

Moreover, "a solution that promises to improve current measurement efforts is always welcome" in a fast-moving and dynamic marketplace. "Creating a single-id of the user across all devices and platforms for measurement will also enable de-duplication which is important for networks and stations whose consumers view the content across many devices," the industry player said.

What to look out for?
However, with no specific information released yet, the industry player brings up a few concerns that brands should take note of. This includes the cost of the measurement. "For digital, there's already a tech tax in terms of ad serving and brand safety. This [cost] will add to it, and slow down adoption," the industry player said. Additionally, the pay-off can only be seen after the measurement is tested with specific clients. The industry player also raised the question of how much data from the walled gardens will be available, and if the methodology will be robust enough.

On the other hand, Gulati pointed out the existing difficulty when it comes to tracking measurement. "An ad served on TV is broadcasted and open for everyone to see, giving it a much higher credibility compared to a targeted ad served on the digital platform where it’s very hard to do a random spot check." Offline measurement allows third-part auditing, which is something the digital world lacks, according to him.

"What really remains to be seen is how this new methodology will be able to penetrate into the digital world of wall-gardened measurement and bring forward a neutral metrics that is accepted by the industry at large," Gulati said, adding that an extrapolation on sample data does not represent a true picture in the case of digital advertising, and that has been the hardest challenge for measurement companies.

Lacombe from Dentsu Aegis Network Singapore added that with the new solution, it would be good to understand what are the verification tools and processes in place.

“Looking beyond this, the question is how the data is actionable? How Nielsen is connected beyond its walled garden to the wider media ecosystem to enable marketers to use that data? There is an emphasis on portability, I am excited to see the features derived from that,” Lacombe added.

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