The current drive for smarter cross-media measurement is starting to bear fruit in key markets. Matt Green, Director, Global Media Services at WFA, assesses the progress so far.
Share this post
Early in 2019, the WFA’s Media Board expressed its frustration with the progress being made with cross-media measurement. Three years later we now have four markets gearing up for a new approach.
While clicks and impressions obviously have their use, back in 2019 (and equally today), global media leads wanted to measure people and ‘people’ don’t only exist in digital. In order to plan and control the reach and frequency of their campaigns across the largest media vehicles (digital and TV), advertisers need to be able to measure unique people across publishers, platforms and media.
Extending the ‘people-meter’ technologies, used by legacy panel-based TV measurement techniques into the digital space, then, might be the solution. But despite their size, even today’s enlarged panels often struggle to pick up viewing on some of the most far-flung TV channels. That challenge becomes even more acute when considering digital media, with thousands of publishers.
In 2019 our objectives were modest: set up a cross-industry working group capable of establishing some industry principles, anchored in the ‘North Star’ needs of global advertisers. This work helped to create a foundation. What followed was a technology blueprint, unusually created by a cross-industry committee. And what emerged was a coherent, future-facing approach.
The technology, which was subsequently submitted to international peer review, has become infamous for its hybrid approach, combining a single-source panel from which a model can be ‘trained’ to be applied to a much bigger dataset.
A model, of course, is a representation of a real-life system or situation. A collection of rules observed from studying real behaviour. The ‘Virtual ID’ (VID) model we use, once trained, can be applied to all of an advertisers’ campaign impression data, using a probabilistic modelling process, to map existing user identifiers, profiles and other impression data to a new, common, anonymised ID.
The model will assign each impression to one of however many people there are in the total population. What it builds is a synthetic representation of a campaigns’ audience, anchored in the real demographic make-up of any given country.
Using privacy preserving technologies such as Multi-Party Computation (MPC), these VIDs can then be de-duplicated and counted to give an accurate representation of campaign Reach and Frequency.
“We need global, common components, which can then be lifted and dropped across markets. That’s the key ‘unlock’ for how global and local can work together, to avoid replicating the same thing multiple times on cross-media measurement.”
Sarah Mansfield, VP Global Media, Unilever
ANA (US) and ISBA (UK) have been among the 20 or so organisations driving WFA’s collaborative work from the beginning. And, in acknowledgement that our collective approach tethers many of the global media players to a transparent, globally consistent yet locally owned and governed set of tools, both organisations are now piloting this approach within their markets.
To support these exciting and pioneering initiatives, WFA has been facilitating a ‘common component’ programme, also know as ‘Halo’. Halo is governed by advertisers and associations but with participation by measurement companies such as comScore, Kantar and VideoAmp, and publishers and platforms such as Amazon, Bytedance, Google, Meta, etc. The mission is to produce open-source software code from the WFA’s original tech blueprint, that can be applied in every country that wishes to participate.
As has always been the way between WFA and its network of National Advertiser Associations, the goal should be a neat hand-off between global and local. With audience measurement we also need to strive for global consistency, alignment and components where it makes sense, while securing ways to enable authentic representation of domestic media markets within this framework.
This is the “key unlock” acknowledged by global media leaders such as Sarah Mansfield, VP Global Media at Unilever and Phil Smith, Director General at ISBA.
“We’ve always known that for accountable UK cross media measurement to succeed, it will need to be as part of a global solution. Halo’s drive for common components has turbocharged our local effort and, alongside the advertiser imperative, is the key to the progress we have made.”
Phil Smith, Director General, ISBA
The heavy lifting will always need to be done on a local basis, where panels need to be recruited, code deployed and tested, ventures established and funded and much more. But the Halo team can help to produce some common foundations for these local solutions.
And as the UK and US pilots progress, it’s clear that this approach may work for others too. ACA (Canada) plans to be a “fast follow” market, and OWM (Germany) have established broad industry consensus to pursue the same approach.
Overseen by advertisers and national associations, in 2023, Halo will continue to provide cross-media measurement frameworks to local markets. Let’s hope that the ANA’s CMM Initiative and ISBA’s Origin will be the beginning of a Mexican Wave that rolls right around the world.