Member blog: Digital Measurement: An Underutilised Growth Enabler

Phil Sumner, Global Media Insights Director, Teads

Growth of digital advertising is being held back; that is one of the main conclusions I draw from the Digital Brand Advertising and Measurement Report recently released by IAB Europe. Results indicate that there is still a ‘significant knowledge gap within advertisers’ who have unmet measurement priorities – many of which (I believe) have been solvable for some time. On the plus side, there is evidence that good progress is being made, for example, in France, where advertisers lean heavily in to the debate and have helped push things forward but examples like this are few and far between.

I believe responsibility for this is shared; agencies and publishers should be obliged to communicate out, from our industry, the solutions available today. Equally, and perhaps most critically, I believe that advertisers would benefit from leaning in more to our industry; for example, being more vocal when pushing back on things such as publisher-specific measures which create confusion and erode confidence. Whilst it’s great to have the likes of P&G being so vocal over the last 18 months, they should be supported more openly by their fellow advertisers to create sustainable momentum towards long term change in our industry. Ultimately all sides have a responsibility to move this agenda forward and unless we do in unison, we will continue to make comparatively slow progress and that’s a missed opportunity for everyone.

To use an analogy; if progress in digital measurement is akin to Humankind’s’ mission to visit and colonise Mars then by this point, we should have set up an early settlement with the foundations to grow in to a thriving city. Instead we’re stuck on earth, arguing over whether we should be going to Mars in the first place and allowing myriad of space businesses to make spurious claims as to why they are best set for the job without proper foundation. NASA is nowhere to be seen. The net result? We struggle to get beyond the Earth’s orbit.

Our collective slow progress is laid bare by three of the top five advertisers’ priorities highlighted in the report:

  • A move towards measuring viewable rather than served impressions – 86%
  • Online audience measurement definitions compatible with other media types – 79%
  • Replicate established metrics such as net reach, frequency, GRPs, to provide a trading currency – 79%

These are all measurement fundamentals and in reality, there have been solutions available for many years. The measurement discussion in 2018 should be around improving and honing the definitions and standards within functioning digital trading currencies built on consensus as opposed to ensuring that impressions served are viewable. Whilst industry players may disagree on the minimum threshold for viewability, its option to be included within the definition of a valid impression should be table stakes. Measurement companies have actually made great strides in recent years for reliable, timely and accurate cross device measurement, so the capabilities are there but are largely being under-utilised.

By taking advantage of our slow industry progress, we’ve seen opportunistic behaviours, manifested in the emergence of separate data sets put in to the market that don’t stand up to third-party scrutiny. The pervasive long-term problem this creates is a perceived lack of trust for our industry as a whole. The company I represent (Teads) has and will continue to take the position of being measurement agnostic, championing transparency and following the needs of our clients (advertisers and agencies) and the media markets in which we operate. What is demanded by our clients or the markets in which their media teams operate may not always be our preferred choice for measurement (and we may feel that other measures represent us better) but like any successful, well-functioning industry, some self-interest needs to be traded for the greater good.

But it’s important to make and re-state the case: good quality, industry agreed measurement standards will lead to growth, so we can’t lose sight of this and we should highlight where this has worked before.  There is evidence aplenty from within the media industry of currency acting as a growth driver. Cinema advertising in the US in 2003, outdoor advertising in the UK in 1995. Within digital, markets like France and Italy – who I see as being closest to fully functioning digital consensus – have comparatively a much lower dependence on search than others (such as the UK).

One of the key drivers of implementing a successful measurement solution in France has been the involvement of French advertisers, through their trade body, who drove the industry towards agreement on a comparable GRP with TV and didn’t let up. Whilst there have been struggles in France to fully adopt the definitions, the conversation has moved on significantly, as has the sophistication of the standard measures expected and accepted in the marketplace.

We still have a long way to go even in the markets like France, but the good news is that many of the unmet measurement priorities are solvable today. Like a three-legged stool, all three legs need to be in place for the stool to stand. The same applies to reaching a consensus on measurement; everyone needs to come together.


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