comScore: Embracing the challenges of independent media measurement in a ‘wildly complex’ world

Will Hodgman, Executive Vice President at comScore International kicked off this afternoon’s IAB UK Digital Upfronts session by saying he wanted to talk about ‘metrics that matter’.

He emphasised how much times have changed since he was first working in advertising back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. “We have gone from sipping media to gulping it,” he joked. “Everything is always on and everywhere. This shift makes independent media measurement wildly complex.

“But essentially it’s about people,” he added, admitting that, ‘while digital is the most measurable medium in the world it is still far from perfect’: “I love that challenge. I can count it but it will never be perfect. It just has to be really good; as good as it can be.” 

Pulling out three recurrent issues in particular: measuring unduplicated reach across platforms; moving beyond viewability; and monetising mobile, Hodgman said: “These are the three things that I think about all the time.”

What’s more, research seems to indicate that we are still underinvesting in mobile, he added – given that almost half (48%) of UK internet time is now spent on smartphones, while mobile only accounts for 38% of digital ad spend. 

Meanwhile, desktop display viewability ranges from 48% to 55% across markets, while viewability, in his words, ‘is an evolution from the click, but not the end of the road’. “Everybody should have it. Everybody should have it for free,” he declared. 

Next up, Ben Martin, comScore’s global marketing insights director, highlighted that the UK, in particular, is a multi-platform market. He emphasised the importance of taking a granular, fully contextualised approach, rather than making broad-brush assumptions when it comes to the tricky business of media measurement today. 

And he illustrated this point by warning that the shift to mobile, for instance, is not uniform across categories or demographics. For instance, while mobile has established primary position around the globe, in countries such as Indonesia and India, mobile accounts for around 90% of digital time spent. “In these markets, mobile swept straight in as dominant platform,” he told the audience.

“We need to start thinking about the platform mix more seriously,” he urged, pointing out that advertisers must check the ‘overlaps’ of digital consumption, when it comes to planning campaigns.   

“Finding sweet spots …is the key to unlocking the potential,” he said.

Last but not least, comScore’s Nate Leaf warned that 2017 has been the year of brand safety. “Avoiding harmful content is more important than ever,” he said, quoting a World Federation of Advertisers study, which said that, on brand safety, a significant proportion of global brands have suspended investment in ad networks where they felt there was an unnecessary risk. 

As such, comScore is focusing on this area, in order to help inform clients around media buys. Using proprietary pattern recognition technology has enabled it to help clients advertise in brand-safe environments, but Leaf warned that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to brand protection, pointing out that whitelists, blacklists and keyword blocking all have a place, too; despite being largely manual processes. 

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