Under exposed

I do love media measurement. Now, I can guess the image of me you might have after I launch into a statement like that, but I can console myself that there are literally tens of others like me in our industry that are earning a crust out of excitement for the way we measure what media the country is consuming. If we researchers can do that and still maintain our tough guy image then we are winners.  And it’s a tough job as the UK public isn’t making it easy. They are always up to new stuff and never seem to have enough time to just…well…be researched.

And it is with this faith in my peers that I wanted to applaud the IAB and their efforts at further refining the definition of an online ad exposure. Nobody wants to pay for ads that could not possibly have been seen and, as David Ellison from ISBA has noted, it begins to move online ads closer to and make them comparable with other media that offer the ‘opportunity to see’ as the basis of an ad measurement currency (this view from Rob Norman at GroupM is also worth a read – it is about the ‘ugly sisters of digital media’: viewability and fraud).

But it did get me thinking (I was already thinking, obviously, but it got me doing extra thinking on top of that). It got me thinking about the standard measures of consumption across all media. The definitions for someone consuming each media are simple:

  • TV: present in the room with the set switched on and the meter pressed for at least 31 seconds of the clock minute.
  • Press: read or looked at a copy of the publication for two or more minutes during the publication period.
  • Radio: listened for at least five minutes during a fifteen minute period.
  • Cinema: been present in the auditorium.
  • Outdoor: eyes on panel

However, when you then want to look specifically at advertising exposure you quickly unearth a complicated and vastly different set of approaches, definitions and methodology.

We would all agree that the approach should be different. Seeing an ad at the cinema as you tuck into your kids’ popcorn is not the same as a seeing one whilst flicking through the pages of your morning paper. Watching the break that sits in between your Sunday night TV drama is never going to be the same as seeing a promoted ad in between your mate’s holiday photos on your Facebook timeline. The measurements we have developed are designed to take care of specific media behaviour and give us timely trend data to assess our performance.

It is of course important to see a full consumer-centric view of media consumption and tools like the IPA’s TouchPoints give us the capability to model how these audiences use multiple media in their lives.  But I don’t think we should get too obsessed with how the ad consumption overlaps each other or not. Incremental ad reach is useless if the ad exposure is not having the desired or appropriate effect on the consumer.

But there is one unified metric we should all look at before we do any planning at all. It is the one metric that is comparable and doesn’t need to be changed for each type of ad media consumption. Of course I’m talking about sales and profit. This is the fruit of all our labours; the result of putting the right ad investment into the best performing ad exposures no matter how they are defined by us analytical types. Have a look and see for yourself.

  • Neil Mortensen
    Neil Mortensen
    Former Research & Planning Director, Thinkbox
  • Posted under
You might also like

Planning media in 2022

Join us live at HOME Manchester on Wednesday 21st September to explore the latest data on media consumption and marketing effectiveness.


Highlights from UKTV

W’s Dating with my Mates twists your typical dinner date; Big Zuu's Big Eats returns to Dave; Drama brings a true story from World War 2 to our screens with Passport to Freedom; and CSI: Vegas is new on Alibi.


What to watch on Channel 4

Follow young superstars in Football Dreams. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is back in Changing Rooms. Alex Brooker tours around the UK in Hobby Man. Alan Carr explores the world of his favourite childhood authors and you can discover the story of Britain’s Secret War Babies.