Time to Re:Think The Role of Research

This year’s ARF Re:Think conference showed the industry how far Research has come in impacting the overall media business model. In the days of spots and dots and proxy demographic targets, Research played more of a report card role asking the eternal question - How well did we do within our limited universe of influence?

But now, thanks to digital video across devices, big data, technological advances such as machine learning and qual / quant hybrid measurements such as neuroscience, we find that the business advancements of programmatic, cross platform and advanced TV require a strong, visionary Research department role. And the race is on. Gayle Fuguitt, CEO of the ARF noted that “Our tech solutions haven't kept up with the consumer.” So beyond the usual reportage of how a company is performing, researcher now grapple with issues that emanate from unanticipated sources. Here are a few that were discussed at the Re:Think:

Data Analytics and Integration
Stan Sthanunathan, SVP Consumer & Market Insights at Unilever summed it up when he said, there are “50 billion devices all throwing off data. But it's not about the data. It's about what we do with it.”
We have all of this great data at our fingertips and there is more and more big data coming at us from many sources. Of course not all data is valuable and much of the data is siloed. But how will we know what drives our insights and what doesn’t if we cannot easily and efficiently bring it all together to analyze? As CBS CRO David Poltrack noted, “Big data analytics is an emerging field.” Emerging yes, but still diffuse. Bruce Friend, Vision Critical’s President of Media and Entertainment, believes that data integration is a priority, “More and more of our clients are looking inwards towards their own dataset, trying to integrate that with the other research information they are collecting and unfortunately there is no elegant way of doing that right now.”

The Business Stress of Cross Platform
The migration of video across a multitude of platforms not only has measurement challenges, it is also changing the entire business model including sales, marketing and branding. Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Unilever cited the full compendium when he said that we are going from “TV centric to content everywhere, linear to multi touch and mass marketing to hyper targeted marketing.”  According to Joan Fitzgerald, SVP Television and Cross-Media Services at comScore, we talk about a “decline in live TV viewing but viewing is fragmenting across viewing opportunities. 87% of the total US internet population watches online video. Millenials lead the way in online video viewing. 60% watch smartphones in a month 15% watch every day. It is a big driver of change in our business.” Lori Hiltz, CEO Havas, concurs, “Cognitive thinking, applied analytics, social insights, mobile distribution, cloud computing are all impacting the business today. Mobile is driving everything we do. Facebook bypass the model of working through agencies. This resets the way we access insights.”

Viewability is a crucial challenge for all types of media businesses – not just cross platform but also with digitally placed based media outside the home. So while the solution for viewability – whether a piece of content can actually be viewed on the screen - will benefit many types of content and advertising platforms, we currently lack standard measures. Fred Leach, Head of Marketing for Facebook suggested that we “need accreditation for ad servers.” But it is more than that. It is a bit of the Wild West out there, as Nathalie Bordes, Senior Director, Emerging Platforms ESPN noted, “There are technological challenges for premium publishers. There are standards now for desk top and mobile browser, but we need to be platform agnostic. There are also many vendors and different metrics.”

Non-Human Traffic
A sibling issue to Viewability is non-human (or invalid) traffic of search bots, scrapers and hacking tools.  According to Incapsula, in 2013, 61.5 percent of traffic on the web was non-human. It seems high, but even if that were halved, it is still a large percentage of internet traffic. Josh Chasin, CRO for comScore is focused on this issue. He said, "Non-human traffic is more frustrating for publishers. ComScore has seen that one of the biggest drivers of the variance in reported viewability across the different vendors is treatment of non-human traffic and fraud. If reported viewability is unrealistically high, you are probably paying for fraud.”

Adding to all of the above is the age old challenge of measurement – from cross platform to engagement to ROI. Do we create new metrics or do we retro-fit current industry standards?  Some, like Sthanunathan believe that we “need to get insights that we can't get from a traditional approach.” But the foundation of the business is built on metrics developed decades ago.  No matter what direction the industry takes, it is nice to know that Research and its ability to mine insights will be in the center of all the action.

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Research is the Industry’s One-Armed Paper Hanger

I have written many articles about changes in our industry. We talk about how change is impacting the core mechanics of how we do our jobs, upending our long cherished metrics and data sets and setting even the most complacent executive into shudders.  But in truth, there are some in our industry who believe we are in a comparative lull.

At the recent ARF Re:Think, Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Unilever quoted industry notable Shelly Palmer who said, “Change will never be as slow as it is today.” That might be true, but still to many of us, the rate of change today is unprecedented and at once uncomfortable, vexing, fascinating and exhilarating.

A big part of this change is due to the advancements and access-ability of Big Data which is the bailiwick of Research and Analytics Departments. But the data is coming fast, furious and silo’d. So how does Research keep up? I asked a range of researchers at the ARF about what their priority was in the next six months here are the videos and here their stories:

Charlene Weisler asked notable industry executives what their top priority will be in the next six months:

Charlene Weisler talked to a range of industry experts who outlined their current major projects:

Cross Platform
Many across the media spectrum – from suppliers to agencies to organizations to networks - cited cross platform measurement as a top priority. CIMM CEO Jane Clarke said, “What CIMM is going to focus on is what we have been focusing on over the past few years - finalizing our cross platform measurement service with comScore called Project Blueprint. It is measuring unduplicated reach across television, radio, smartphones, tablets and computers across three media, video, audio and text.” Joan Fitzgerald, SVP Television and Cross-Media Services comScore, concurred, “We are continuing to concentrate on making cross media measurement a reality in the marketplace today.”

Tom Xenos, Vice President, Research, MediaVest said, “One of the biggest things coming up is to better understand cross media measurement - How to get the data, how to understand duplication, how to know what is driving what medium to what platform and having it all come together.” Tom Ziangus, SVP Research for AMC Networks added that he is committed to “coordinating our Big Data efforts to report and understand Video Cross-platform viewing behaviors.”

But the media world is not solely focused on cross platform. For Leslie Wood, Nielsen, it is “Targeting. Everything we learned about targeting came from mass media where if you got it wrong you still reached a lot of people. But now that we can precision target, it really matters. What can we look at in our data that gives you the insights you need to make good decisions.”

Mobile is the 600 pound gorilla in the measurement room.  According to Josh Chasin, CRO comScore, “What we are going to be working on is holistic measurement solutions that bring TV and digital measurement together and I think it will be around the nexus of mobile measurement.” Graeme Hutton is focused on mobile and its intrinsic synergies with television. He said, “If I had to do one thing over the next six months it would be to look at the interaction between television and mobile. Mobile and TV are known to work strongly together. But I want to know why. Understanding the ‘why’ is very important. The principal way to do that is through neuroscience.”

Data Integration Platforms
Harnessing Big Data is a big priority for many. For example, Bruce Goerlich, CRO Rentrak, is concentrating on data integration. He said, “We are just about to release the Rentrak Analytic Platform which will have respondent level data in it. It will be 500,000 homes in the beginning going up to 2 million. There will be many types of analyses that you can do on this huge data set providing stability, granularity and insights.”

For Mike Bloxham, SVP Magid, the priority is “the over the top and SVOD marketplace which has the capacity to be very disruptive and has ramifications across the business. If we see a continuation of what we have seen in the past 18 months in terms of viewing figures on broadcast and cable, advertisers are starting to think about how that will impact the way in which they use TV to reach mass audience.” 

Bringing the Next Generation Up to Speed
Change impacts not only those of us in the industry but also those who one day may join the industry. CRE facilitator and NYU Professor Richard Zackon is currently focusing on how to keep his summer audience measurement class at NYU up to date. He explains, “Every year about this time I begin to prepare for my class and every year I have to throw away about 5 or 10% of the material because it is out dated. This year I am going to have to throw out about 30% of my material. I have a lot of catch up work in basically every fundamental topic.”

Can we as a group of researchers manage to keep pace? I am hopeful. There are enough of us taking on a range of different challenges to assure that there will be some progress.

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Advanced Advertising - Automation, Measurement and Stewardship, OH MY!

There is a lot of activity brewing in the advanced advertising sector and the recent Multichannel Advanced Advertising conference in NYC brought many of us up to date. The conclusion of the conference was, as we prepare for the upfront TV season, advanced advertising will not only be a bigger player, it may even shift dollars. And, according to most of the panels, when we say Advanced Advertising we are also saying TV Programmatic in the same breath.

Granted, most of us think of advanced advertising as local time now but it is fast moving into national applications. Fox recently announced the appointment of Joe Marchese to President-advanced advertising products, a new position overseeing all non-linear TV advertising products and services inside Fox.  According to Louis Hillelson, Group Publisher B&C / Multichannel News, “It is only March 2015 and we have already seen movement in this space.” 

Unifying content offerings and getting credit for all of the audience delivered is the Holy Grail. This requires accurate cross platform metrics, the ability to steward all of the different units and an effective and automated platform to drive the sales process from proposal to completion. 

Even in this technological age, there are still a number of inefficient manual processes in the television buying and selling process. There is a great hunger among many of the buyers and sellers to automate and streamline processes. Todd Gorden, EVP Magna Global , explained, “Traditional television still has manual processes - Faxes, retyping of plans. We want to automate. Free up more time for conversations that help each business. (TV Programmatic) offers quality data to define target, a tech platform to facilitate business and inventory that can take advantage to where technology takes us.”

It all comes down to measurement and the ability to match disparate datasets accurately to gain insight into true consumer behaviors.  “Measurement is a key component,” according to Comcast Executive Director, Dan Carella.  Chris Monteferrante, VP AT&T, explained how his company handles measurement. “We retrieve second by second data from every set top box and developed an algorithm that takes all STB data, culls it down and produces an optimized media plan. The science solid, the research is solid and the output is solid.” Dan Sinagoga, VP Comcast Spotlight concurred, “It is all about the data - household level data against your key segments.”

With the ability to match to segments, we are seeing “real insights into the customer” according to EVP Cadreen, Erica Schmidt, “and the best available source of media usage behavior to match it to.“ But we have a way to go. James Rooke GM Freewheel admited that there is “undervalued inventory because of measurement challenges out there.”

Ultimately, it is the need for seamless de’siloing systems that make the entire buy sell process fully trackable.  Monteferrante noted that, “Systems will bring it all together. What are the standards of that system? How can we tie it all together?”  Some agencies have successfully established a planning protocol. Mike Bologna, President MODI Media, sees advanced advertising commanding 20-30% of a budget at this time. He said, “Hyper segments defined for advertisers can determine how TV content indexes against segments. (We) can do a beautifully balanced TV plan for an advertiser, down to the individual household. We take advantage of all the data and technology and balance between core and future customers.”

The Future?
Though there is a lot of talk about Programmatic TV in the upcoming upfront, this does not portend the end of traditional TV. In fact the two processes can go hand in hand. Gorden explains, “Comparing traditional TV to Programmatic TV is apples to oranges. Traditional TV is a more effective way to get up reach curve. But then it levels out. Then a dollar spent via programmatic can deliver more incremental reach.”

There are many national networks starting to explore the potential, and build out their Programmatic TV strategy. Attendee Hanna Gryncwajg, SVP Sales for RLTV, sees an opportunity, “I see programmatic (automated) selling as a benefit for all national networks.  Long tail cable networks have rich audience compositions and will likely find a CPM benefit from their current undervalued impressions.  Under appreciated audiences such as Boomers (Adults 50+) will be welcome when data shows they are the ones buying certain products and services.”

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ARF Re:Think 2015 Conference Comes to Town

There are many conferences in the media industry but the ARF stand out to me because it is research centric. So pull out your pocket protectors and get ready for the ARF Re: Think conference which launches this Sunday at the Hilton. Each year the pressure is on to capture the most current research zeitgeist and report of the bleeding edge trends in the field. 

I sat down with CEO and President Gayle Fuguitt to find out what we can expect from this year’s ARF Re:Think :

CW: You joined the ARF in 2013. What has changed since you first arrived?  

GF: We've expanded well beyond New York City. We now have a West Coast ARF Network presence, as well as strong global representation on the world's stages. We've reinvigorated and connected our original research to more and more member companies and platforms: Neuroscience, new cross platform measurement solutions, Research Quality innovations and how to structure your organization for growth and success.

CW: What is the theme of this year’s Re:Think? Why was that theme chosen?

GF: This year's conference theme is "where leaders ignite growth." We chose it because growth is on everyone's agenda. "The future is here, it's just unevenly distributed," meaning there are great solutions in the over 220 original papers that were submitted and those that will be presented, which yield today's solutions and successes by the best and brightest global minds and leaders.  And finally because "where" means if you miss being there you'll miss out on the connectivity that happens only at the ARF in these venues for networking on the most pressing issues of the day with the world's foremost leaders in advertising, marketing, insights, media tech, ad networks and solutions providers.

CW: What is the greatest challenge facing the industry today?  

GF: Bandwidth: There are so many bright leaders and leading solutions and few have the time or resources to navigate them, "place bets" and read the results. Everyone seems to have their "head down."   At the ARF we convened 42 of the brightest and most influential leaders on February 11 and created a handful of ground truth experiments in real time.  Everyone was asked to be a "Venture Capitalist" and create something that would drive sales growth and innovation and that they would invest in.  We did it in 4 hours.

 CW: What is the greatest challenge facing research today?  

GF: Research has the opportunity to reinvent, but there is a very narrow window. If today's researchers don't lead growth and change at their companies, they risk being left behind. Many realize that yesterday's "tools" aren't keeping up with today's C-Suite demands. They feel that they lack time, resources and in some cases respect, but the real need is courage, conviction and connectivity. So the very thing that leaders are tempted to do, stay at their desk and "hunker down and work harder," will be the thing that keeps them from growing and advancing.

CW:        What do you hope conference attendees gain from this year's conference? 

GF: New solutions to today's burning C-suite problems so when attendees go back to the office they can send solutions straight to the C-suite with credibility and confidence. Peer networking and support, new connections. Leadership examples showcasing successes in HOW new approaches are adopted and how successful organizations are built, versus just toolkit solutions.   

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