WFA drives towards cross-media-measurement principles

Common definitions of contact and the willingness of advertisers to directly fund measurement systems will determine the success of the WFA’s newly-announced Cross-Media initiative, argues asi’s Research Director Richard Marks

Today, the global advertising industry came together to announce a Cross Media Working Group that will establish principles to guide cross-media measurement around the world. The group will aim to establish principles for planning and trading across media and importantly across international markets. You can read more about this important announcement in the press release below.

It’s an initiative that is very much to be welcomed. The media eco-system becomes ever more complex, with sources of data ever more varied and contradictory, so advertisers speaking with one voice to make clear what they want is really helpful for those of us involved in the development of measurement systems for planning and trading.

This announcement ties together a number of initiatives which have been underway including those from EGTA (the body for European commercial broadcasters), the MRC, which oversees the quality of currency measurement in the States, and ongoing debates at our own asi annual conferences over many years, where we have provided a forum to debate initiatives in cross-media measurement. Next month, Phil Smith of ISBA (and the WFA), Nick Slaymaker of MediaCom and Ryan Jamboretz of Amobee will be challenging the audience measurement community to find solutions to these problems when they gather at this year’s  International Television & Video Conference in Prague on November 6th-8th.

Whilst welcoming the initiative, I would highlight two specific topics, one covered by the announcement, one conspicuous by its absence.

As the announcement confirms, a recommendation is needed on what the comparable metrics across media will be – what is the unit of currency that can work across all media? It is important that we distinguish between cross-platform measurement (tracking a medium like video across different platforms and devices) and cross-media measurement: comparing viewing, listening and reading. The latter has been the advertisers’ holy grail for many decades, even before digital disruption.

When it comes to video viewing across platforms, comparable metrics should be within reach and this is the first focus of the MRC initiative in the States (referenced in the announcement), which has already set minimum duration and visibility guidelines for video metrics.

However, when it comes to comparing, for example, a 15-second radio ad, a 30-second TV ad, a two-page display ad in Vogue and a digital billboard campaign, can a common agreed definition of a contact be found? If that definition is simply a reductive measure of time exposure, I would be concerned, as we have decades of research to indicate that all media contacts are not equal. Guidelines on metrics that take account of how impact varies across media type and platform will be essential.

The second challenge is more fundamental: who will pay for the systems these principles are being designed to guide? Individual currencies have already invested significantly to achieve cross-platform measurement of their media, but the benefits of cross-media measurement to media owners – who mostly fund measurement – will not be as obvious. There will be winners and losers and it is unlikely that cross-media measurement will grow the overall ‘pie’ of ad expenditure, not least as the objective of any cross-media system is surely to make media spend more efficient.

So these guidelines will be hugely helpful in framing what is needed, but a real conversation is needed about the degree to which the advertisers and agencies are willing to put their money on the table to then achieve their objectives.

The announcement references separate measurement initiatives from ISBA in the UK and ANA in the States, so it will be interesting to understand the scope and the funding for these when they are announced. Rumours of an ISBA UK initiative on video measurement have been circulating in recent months.

Advertisers argue that they already indirectly fund the ‘siloed’ currencies as media owners rely on advertising for revenue. However, that argument breaks down when it comes to cross-media measurement. Will advertisers and agencies be willing to directly fund the cross-media systems these guidelines are designed to inform? Are they willing to put their hands in their pockets to reach their holy grail?



4th October 2019

Global advertisers launch drive to establish cross-media measurement principles

Cross Media Working Group participants include world’s biggest marketers and markets, tech firms, broadcasters and agency holding groups

Two-day meeting during Advertising Week NY identifies next steps for progress

An advertiser-focused group has launched a global initiative designed to make the advertiser voice heard on the topic of cross-media measurement.

At the core of the ‘Cross Media Working Group’ is the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and key advertisers from WFA’s Global Media Board including EA, Mastercard, P&G and Unilever. The effort is being driven, arm-in-arm, with some of the key advertiser associations from WFA’s network that have been driving change in the way media is measured in their markets. These includes the ANA (US) and ISBA (UK), both of which are working on their own respective measurement initiatives. Also included are ACA (Canada), OWM (Germany), Swedish Advertisers, Union des Marques (France).

The group aims to find cross-industry consensus on key global principles for measurement, with broadcasters, digital platforms and measurement companies also involved in the initiative.

The goal is to speed up the implementation of more consistent measurement without having to invent a separate solution for every market. The initiative will build on work already carried out and aims to deliver on the challenges of third-party verification and measurement outlined in the WFA’s Media Charter, published in 2018, which is an ongoing source of advertiser frustration.

“Meaningful cross-audience measurement represents a step-change for marketers in understanding the impact of their marketing investment. But with great promise comes great complexity so there are many challenges to work through. Our first goal is to identify the global principles that can help accelerate the adoption of cross-media measurement, enabling more individual markets to adapt a common platform while also reflecting local market custom and practice,” said Stephan Loerke, CEO, WFA.

The group has been meeting for several months to identify common ground between current cross-media measurement initiatives in markets such as France, Germany, Sweden, UK and the US. During Advertising Week in New York the group met for a two-day session, designed to continue the work of identifying areas of consensus and disagreement.

That work has identified four key areas where more work and consultation is required to build consensus:

  • Privacy: Cross-media measurement depends on data being provided by various sources (platforms, publishers, broadcasters, measurement companies and others). It’s critically important that this is shared in a manner that respects consumer privacy and is in line with both existing and emerging privacy regulation.
  • Measurement infrastructure or ‘pipework’: Cross-media measurement requires a complex infrastructure of components and data. Decisions are required as to how best to connect these, for example, the role for TV panels, calibration with other sources as well as the method of audience de-duplication.
  • Metrics and data:  Cross-media measurement requires consistent definitions and metrics to enable like-for-like comparisons between media. The solution may involve establishing a single definition or more than one definition but there has to be a means of comparing each. The group will have to identify the minimum datasets required to deliver this and how they flow through the above pipework.
  • Governance: Cross-media measurement requires clear governance in order to protect privacy, ensure objectivity and enable fair decision-making. Decisions are required as to how this should be governed and funded, where the measurement should ‘live’ and who should provide it.

Work sessions in NY have identified baseline principles for several of these areas and the next steps will be to build on these ideas and then interrogate and stress-test the principles developed.

The aim of the collaborative project will be to build principles, built on agreement and commitment from the industry, which can become the foundations for potential solutions.

“The goal is to establish consensus and move the debate along before handing over to those closer to implementation to take the next, critical steps. The more work that can be done centrally to aid markets and marketers, the better”, said Stephan Loerke, CEO, WFA.

“The ANA is committed to developing a consensus concerning the all-important issue of cross media measurement,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “We are determined to bring the voice of the marketer to bear in this debate, which is the reason for the newly created ANA division dedicated to measurement. The work the WFA is doing in measurement is vitally important, and the ANA will continue to actively participate in this global initiative.”

“ISBA and its members are not alone in striving for independent, accountable cross-media measurement. To succeed, we know that efforts from all parts of the globe must come together to provide a single set of principles and standards that can be applied in individual markets. Given the fragmented nature of the audience measurement landscape today, it is vital that advertisers take the lead.” said Phil Smith, Director General at ISBA (UK)

Key digital platforms and publishers including Facebook, Google and Twitter are also participating in the initiative as are leading broadcasters from either side of the Atlantic such as NBCUniversal and RTL.

Other participants include representatives from all the major advertising holding groups and the Media Ratings Council (MRC). The MRC recently released its own Cross-Media Measurement Standards, which are a critical reference point for the WFA group.

“For too long the industry has continued to create siloed measurement solutions proprietary to specific platforms, publishers, media type, or geography. This cripples marketers’ ability to gain a true understanding of the unique reach, penetration and impact of our marketing investments. We can no longer accept this level of gratuitous fragmentation in today’s data-driven marketing landscape.” Belinda Smith, WFA Executive Committee Member, Head of Global Marketing Intelligence, EA.

“Technology and the insights we can pull from current tools has the potential to help us better understand how people are receiving and acting on the messages they receive. Developing a set of industry principles will help raise the bar and make every interaction more meaningful to both the consumer and the brand. We look forward to collaborating with the media community to deliver this new framework,” Ben Jankowski, Co-Chair WFA Media Forum and SVP of Global Media at Mastercard.

“We’ve been talking about cross-platform media transparency through cross-platform media measurement for far too long,” said Marc Pritchard, P&G Chief Brand Officer. “It’s time to get on with it and this is a positive step in the right direction.”

“As part of Unilever’s Responsibility Framework, we are committed to building Responsible Infrastructure. Cross Media Measurement is a critical component that allows us to have real transparency of media performance, assessing unduplicated reach and impact across publishers, platforms and screens in a privacy-safe way. We are pleased to be founding members of this wider WFA initiative scaling existing efforts and rallying the industry to push for more accountability in measurement.” Luis Di Como, EVP Global Media, Unilever.

“In today’s fast evolving media landscape characterised by changing viewing behaviours across screens and platforms, audience measurement too must evolve. As a growing amount of companies develop proprietary solutions in an attempt to solve part of the equation, it seems increasingly clear that the adoption of common industry guidelines is a much better option. egta, the Brussels-based network of over 150 TV/video and radio/audio content monetisation and ad sales companies warmly welcomes and supports the WFA’s determination to clearly lay down the needs of advertisers and build consensus around these among all parties involved. TV and radio companies are determined to help raise the bar for the whole industry and will do their utmost both individually and as members of egta to support this process and continue to meet – through both their on air and on line properties – advertisers’ legitimate demands for brand safety, transparency and access to reliable and verified data.” Malin Hager, President, egta and Chief Commercial Officer of TV4 Sweden

“The complexity of modern advertising requires more complete cross media measurement systems built with privacy at the core. This will enable advertisers a more comprehensive understanding of their media investments, ultimately resulting in a better experience for consumers. We applaud the WFA for recognizing this and support bringing the industry together to design a global, privacy-safe solution.”  Brad Smallwood, VP Measurement and Insights, Facebook

“The need for privacy-safe cross media measurement has never been greater. Despite access to a number of measurement solutions, advertisers still lack the ability to make media investment decisions using a common, comparable approach across all channels. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the WFA and are committed to supporting this critical initiative.” Kirk Perry, President, Global Client and Agency Solutions, Google

“We fully support the WFA initiative: There is no alternative to cross-media and cross-device measurement which is is why great efforts are being made in several markets, Germany among them, with notable success. However, as many of the biggest advertisers are global companies our local initiatives need to reflect, and adapt to, their requirements. Today, our industry, too, needs to think in global dimensions to secure the highest degree of support from all market participants.” Karin Immenroth, Chief Data & Analytics Officer, RTL Deutschland