ARF issues media measurement warning

If you think it's tough these days to get a handle on who's watching what, just wait a few years. A committee of top media research experts says current audience measurement technology won't be able to cope once digital television becomes...

If you think it’s tough these days to get a handle on who’s watching what, just wait a few years. A committee of top media research experts says current audience measurement technology won’t be able to cope once digital television becomes the norm.

Gabe Samuels, vice-president of research for the New York-based Advertising Research Foundation, says it’s highly unlikely BBM’s Picture Matching technology nor Nielsen Media Research’s Tuner Probe technology will be effective in five to six years, once the industry switches over to digital broadcasting.

In the new digital world, media measurement experts say, the compression of broadcast signals will mean the elimination of unique signals for Tuner Probe technology to detect. In the same way, the convergence of technology will mean that personalized viewing won’t be recognized by Picture Matching.

With this in mind, ARF is funding the North American Television Audience Measurement (NATAM) project. Chaired by Samuels, NATAM boasts a triumvirate of media measurement experts: Barry Kiefl, director of research for CBC, Horst Stipp, director of research for NBC, and Bill McKenna, CEO of Mediafax in Puerto Rico.

Kiefl says NATAM is trying to provide guidance to suppliers of audience research so the industry is not caught flat-footed in 2006 when digital television will be the only broadcast format coming out of the U.S.

‘[Digital broadcasting] is going to change the whole marketing world,’ says Kiefl, equating interactive TV with the birth of an entirely new medium.

He says NATAM is trying to forecast consumer adoption of digital technology and, on that basis, will put forth some likely scenarios about what devices will need to be monitored in five years. In addition, it will establish guidelines outlining the information clients, agencies and broadcasters will need from future measurement systems.

‘The measurement companies today are arguing about things that were relevant five years ago,’ Kiefl says. ‘They’re certainly not going to be relevant five years from now.’

The committee’s work is expected to be completed and its report released by the end of this year.

For their part, Canada’s television audience measurement companies say while they might not have the appropriate technology today, they will by the time it’s needed.

Mike Leahy, group vice-president, sales and marketing for Nielsen Media Research, concedes that Tuner Probe technology was designed for an analogue environment, but says the company is already field-testing a portfolio of new measurement solutions. They include software metering methods and an Active/Passive meter that combines active audio and video code readers with passive audio and video matching engines.

‘The coming digital technologies require an enormous amount of expenditure and expertise to measure,’ says Leahy. He credits the company’s size and stature with the fact that digital behemoths such as Microsoft, Lucent, Worldgate and Intel are partnering with Nielsen on new measurement solutions.

Robert Langlois, vice-president of Quebec services for BBM Bureau of Measurement, says he’s surprised at NATAM’s assertion that Picture Matching will not be effective in the digital future, because in Vancouver it is currently being used to measure a number of households that use satellites and other television distribution methods.

Langlois adds that if, in fact, Picture Matching technology does not meet the needs of the industry six or seven years from now, BBM will find a technology that will.

‘Because we don’t have an investment in research and development ourselves, we don’t have any system to amortize except the actual expenditures to [install] the system,’ says Langlois of the tripartite industry association.

‘We will be in a position to walk away if need be and introduce a new service.

‘That’s the beauty of BBM; we’re able to bring to the Canadian industry what we and the industry feel would be best at the moment the need is identified.’

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group