New York -- If Nielsen, for good or for bad, remains the gold standard of TV research, there are plenty of other currencies in which measurement and advertising businesses are being transacted.
So said research executives on the "Viewer Measurement: State of the Art" panel at the Advanced Advertising 2.0 event, sponsored by Multichannel News and B&C, here Monday afternoon.
Although linear TV, accounting for 90% of video consumption and largely tracked by panel-based data, remains the dominant vehicle for the $60 billion spent on the medium annually, executives gave the edge to set-top collection, which provides larger sample bases than Nielsen and more granular data, as well as information about video-on-demand and interactive elements.
To that end, FourthWall Media, Rentrak Corp., TiVo and Kantar Media (previously TNS Media) are all engaged in multiple projects, yielding various reports that extend beyond the historical panel data.
But doesn't that mean there are a lot of different methodologies, a tower of currencies, whether "lira or Deutsche mark," for agencies and their clients to sift through?, asked Multichannel News technology editor Todd Spangler. Or as MCN editor in chief and co-moderator Mark Robichaux quipped, "a tower of Babel."
Bruce Goerlich, chief researcher for Rentrak Corp., preferred "basket of currencies," to a euro or dollar metaphor. "There are many currencies that are translatable to one another. This is no longer just about sex/age data. That was a much simpler world. It's time more of the TV industry woke up and understood that there are other ways to do business...to keep that $60 billion in the system and go after the $60 billion that sits in direct marketing" budgets.
To that end, Rentrak's 17 million-home TV Essentials audience measurement service, across AT&T U-verse TV, Dish Network and Charter Communications subscribers in Los Angeles, will be "ready for primetime this summer," he said.
Responding to a query about Nielsen still setting the pace, Bill Feininger, senior vice president of media measurement for FourthWall Media, who joined the interactive TV developer firm from the research giant earlier this month, noted that "there are a lots of different metrics needed. There is not just one thought leader these days." He said researchers have gone beyond "experimenting, which has been "turned into real businesses, businesses using a lot of different currencies."
FourthWall's TV software has been deployed in more than 24 million set-top boxes, with the company counting such clients and partners as Comcast Media Center, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Rovi and Dish.
For his part, Bud Breheney, chief commercial officer, Kantar Media, which provides panel-based research in over 30 nations abroad, including the U.K., China, Russia and Spain, agreed, pointing to the company's work with DirecTV via the researcher's DirectView. These analytics gather second-by-second data from live and time-shifted DVR watching from more than 100,000 of the top DBS operator's set-tops.
"Do ads have to work the same way they have historically? [Advertisers] have to find different ways to help run their businesses more efficiently," said Breheney.
TiVo, meanwhile, garners data from some 350,000 DVR homes, supplementing that info by asking demographic, lifestyle and buying power questions from about 10% of that group. Conceding this is not pure single-source data, Greg DePalma, vice president, audience insights, called it "a little art, a little science. It's an approximation, but from a lot larger sample size with multiple data points that negates outliers."
Breheney said the marketplace is interested in more data, especially those relatively new to the industry. He pointed out that Kantar has three or four young people in its shop and "we talk to them very differently" than the way he was addressed when he was in his twenties: "They are very receptive to change; they're used to dealing with a lot of different data tracks."
That may be true, according to Tivo's DePalma, but ergonomic and economic issues remain in play.
"It's a tough challenge. Young folks at agencies may want to shift moneys to different media, but the business is incented toward TV. Until that incentive comes from clients, it's going to be tough to move dollars."
Mentioning different advanced advertising game plans outlined by DirecTV, Verizon and Time Warner Cable at the event's earlier panel, "Two-Way Marketing Engine: Success Stories," Spangler asked if there was anything that could synthesize data.
Feininger pointed to EBIF, CableLabs' Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format, standard, which will deployed by Canoe, the cable industry's interactive advertising consortium.
"Canoe will have 30 million homes engaged. Satellite has its own plan," he said. "But if they see 60 million homes, they might get on board."
Looking ahead, the executives -- despite the strides that have been made -- realize that much work remains ahead. Or, as Robichaux queried: "Where are the pain points for marketers?"
FourthWall's Feininger noted that it's still tough to get some data. "MSOs have privacy concerns," he said.
"You have to go to the CEO and the CMO and make sure they see the strategy and its value long-term," said Rentrak's Goerlich. "Then you have to go tactical, to the MSO and system levels, and have the staff to make it happen."
Resources are also key in Breheney's view. "Marketers want second by second data, but agencies lack resources, both human and economic," he said. "Return point data will drive the business. That's what we're hearing from our clients."
TiVo's DePalma said the 30-second spot remains the industry's dominant messaging form, and the big shift in dollars won't come until "ITV replaces the traditional 30. I don't know how close we are to that," he said.