Tackling The Measurement Problem

/ Apr 8, 2013

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By Art Zeidman

Having built and run one of the nation’s largest Social Video distribution companies (selling online video on a Cost-Per-View basis, and making it shareable on the social web), I am, naturally, completely bought into the tremendous advantages that online video offers advertisers over television. The fact that advertisers can commit to buying precisely the number of eyeballs they want, not more, not less and not an educated guesstimate is already a pretty amazing advantage. The fact that we can take it many steps further and measure consumer actions and interactions, cause and effect, engagement and product sales directly from an online video placement means that advertisers should not have to waste money on unproductive ads. This is an incredible step forward in how advertising works, and the process will be much more efficient some day.

Unfortunately, some day is still a long way off.

A key limiter to the growth of online video is measurement and process. Let’s examine the relationship between the world’s biggest brands and their agencies, and the transactions around video advertising. A single currency regulates these relationships: Nielsen measurement of impressions and grp’s. I know, you’re thinking: “Nielsen is for TV, and so it doesn’t apply to me , the digital provider, and my superior offering! My product delivers so much more than TV…the clients will buy from me because they can measure and track everything!” This line of thinking is certainly sound, but consider this: TV represents 90%+ of the money being spent by brands on video advertising, and it is the procurement departments who are the regulators of this commoditized resource (grp’s). In this financial scenario, how can online fit in and be purchased in a seamless way with TV?

If we can’t walk like a duck and quack like a duck, how can the big brands buy from us when they want a duck dinner? Imagine if you opened a store in the middle of Chicago, and put a sign up on the register that said: “All Purchases Must Be Payable In Rubles”. Who could possibly buy your stuff? Even if they really wanted to buy from you, they would have to go through so many unfamiliar steps before purchasing, it would be really frustrating for them. In a sense, this is exactly what we do in the online video business.

Is the GRP a flawed currency? Absolutely! Nonetheless, well over $100 Billion dollars in client budgets are regulated by this currency…why fight it? Every one of us in the online video business evangelizes the impending shift, the great day when “video becomes video” regardless of consumption environment and buying channel, and all those TV dollars will be unlocked for digital. Maybe we should all just start accepting the local currency for our goods and get on with it!

Interestingly enough, I’ve been told that a precedent has already been set for us; it is my understanding that Pandora has worked with Arbitron (provider of radio GRPs) to be measured, reported and purchased on an equal footing with terrestrial radio. And wouldn’t you know, within radio advertising, budgets are becoming seamless and Pandora is starting to do quite well. It became the duck. It’s about time we in the online video business do the same.


Art Zeidman has spent a lifetime in the media business.  Starting as a young man cleaning bathrooms and sweeping floors at NY’s WNYW-TV, Art worked his way through a succession of Sales and Sales Management positions in the Radio industry, before being recruited by Google in 2006 to establish their Agency Development Team.  Most recently, Art built and ran the US operation for global social video distributor Unruly Media.  He now works with a portfolio of start-ups and early-stage digital companies in devising sound commercial, sales and product strategies.  A jazz saxophonist and amateur plumber, Art is available to play at your next party, or repair your next leak.

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