The IAB ❤'s Mobile and Cross-Screen Measurement

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Just before Valentine’s Day we held an industry town hall style conversation in San Francisco on the romantic topic of mobile and cross-screen audience metrics and measurement.

Before an audience comprised of members of the IAB Mobile and Tablet Committees, and the Research and Ad Ops Councils, a diverse panel of experts shared what their companies are doing around mobile and cross-screen measurement, what buyers want from metrics, and areas where this part of the mobile ecosystem needs to improve.

I want to thank my great group of speakers, including:

  •  Yvonne Chou, Product Management, Ads, and Monetization, Flipboard
  • Anne Frisbie, VP and GM, Global Alliances, InMobi
  • Graham Mudd, Director, Advertising Measurement, North America, Facebook
  • Steve Yarger, Head of Mobile, Trulia

Particular thanks to the folks at Trulia, who kindly let us use their event space for this conversation.

One topic we discussed was the traditional view of “reach” as an important metric—and the question of whether simply being the biggest was still a valuable differentiator for a network or media company.  The answer seemed in general that, yes, scale matters to ad buyers.  But raw, undifferentiated, mass-audience scale is not as valuable as it once might have been.  So InMobi, for example, tends not to talk about its raw reach number, but rather a smaller number (though still a big number—759 million) that counts only those end users for which it has some user-level targeting capabilities.

And of course where reach goes, so goes frequency, and to some extent duration as well.  I wondered (devil’s advocate-style) whether the age of audience buying meant that the good old GRP (reach x frequency) was obsolete.  None of the panelists really felt that way—indeed they all felt that there was increasing need for standardization of GRP-type metrics, for digital (including mobile) and then for cross-screen as well.  Making Measurement Make Sense deserves great credit for coming as far as it has, but the panelists agreed (and I think most 3MS participants would as well) that they still have a very long way to go.  Ad sellers are increasingly hearing demand from agencies to buy based on Nielsen OCR or comScore VCE, and see a role for IAB to help ensure those and any other GRP-style metrics are a sound basis for transactions.

And on the cross-screen frontier, there is a lot of interest, but a lot of concern as well. Vendors helping establish bridges between PC and mobile audiences are great, but some on the panel worry that they are either not transparent enough (or there’s no good way to validate their accuracy) and that on the consumer side there is not enough disclosure yet. Users need to accept and expect what you’re doing with their data, goes the sentiment, and with cross-screen data aggregation, there’s a risk of backlash from not-yet-informed or aware consumers.

Capping this part of the conversation I asked about the future of metrics and Alex from Weather said (half serious half in jest, I think) that we need an industry standard around cross-screen view-through conversions.  He’s probably right, but that’s an intimidating project.

Another point of metrics agreement among all five panelists was that clicks still matter too much in mobile.  First off, we shouldn’t even be calling them “clicks” or using the acronym “CTR” at all—in mobile the term is “taps.”  So even getting marketers talking about “tap rates” would be a minor victory.  But the major victory would be moving them from talking about taps to identifying and using better, deeper metrics to judge whether their messages are working.

I’ve been a proponent of trying this for some time, indeed IAB’s been on the “down with CTRs” message on desktop for ages.  But one interesting thing that came up in the town hall was that specific verticals have metrics they like, that they feel have proven (at least in terms of conventional wisdom) correlations to business results.

The two cited were:

Media and entertainment: movie studios look at trailer completion rates, believe a higher completion rate correlates with better box office.

Pharma: pharmaceutical companies look at the number of ad viewers who go three-clicks-deep into the content about a given drug. There’s a belief that people who do that are much more likely to go on to talk to their doctors and possibly get a prescription.

I am intrigued by these “magic metrics”—I’d like to start a collection of them for other verticals.  There’s a huge  value to simple, relevant, consistently defined metrics, especially if those metrics have an accepted correlation with actual leads, sales, or other valued business results.

Making mobile measurement make sense (which I’ve already heard referred to half-jokingly as “4MS”) is very much on the Mobile Center’s mind this year.  This town hall  was the first, but certainly not the last, industry conversation we’ll be facilitating, and Metrics and Measurement is going to be big at our upcoming Mobile Marketplace conference on April 7 here in New York.  I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on these issues, either there or in other venues later in the year.

About the Author

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Joe Laszlo

Joe Laszlo is Senior Director, Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, at the IAB.

 

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