Have you ever seen a 60-second TV commercial? I bet it’s been a while. While the media industry has debated the most effective ad length for decades, we know the answer—at least generally speaking—isn’t a full minute. Today, 15 seconds is most common for TV*; comparably, ads on the internet can be as short as a single second. This means for brand advertisers that each second counts, no matter what platform.
Brands need to be able to measure across platforms as digital is becoming mainstream and the streaming-first mindset of consumers has become mainstream. Audiences across traditional and digital media are converging, and the industry’s move to impressions-based buying and selling is already underway.
While linear TV measurement is continuous in nature, brands have struggled to get the same level of detail as digital platforms or models. Digital measurement is more focused on the performance of individual campaigns, which has hindered comparability to traditional TV advertising performance. Measurement providers should consider the possibility of comparing across platforms.
The industry doesn’t likely have many people who oppose comparability. Others might argue that the industry is too late to tackle the problem in light of changing media consumption trends. However, presupposition can be very different from actuality. Measurement technologies and methods have long been channel- or platform-specific. To transform the world, you need to be precise and attentive to your market.
It’s easy to say that providers are late in adjusting, consolidating and marrying their measurement capabilities. Many providers won’t say that they are able to wait until change is urgent to plan, test and execute. Even if there was a pandemic the need may not have been so urgent. However, only 32% spend time with television today using content from connected devices.
If you look at all primary television programs (broadcast cable and streaming), then streaming is now more than 25% of the total audience. In October, time spent with streaming was equal to time spent watching broadcast television, as reported in The Gauge, SME’s total TV and streaming viewing snapshot. Because of the blurring between digital and broadcast, it is impossible to measure specific platforms or channels. Measurement methodologies must not only be consistent to account for shifting media consumption behaviors, but the metrics that they generate need to be comparable to allow brands to have true comparability.
This brings us back to measuring above the 60 second threshold. That’s the key to comparability when an ad runs on television. Since decades, measurement at the minute level is the norm. It generally gives networks enough detail to assess overall audience engagement. That’s not the case for advertisers and agencies, given that ads grace the same screens, but for much less time.
In today’s media mix, there is no shortage of options and variety for consumers to choose from. And regardless of platform, any minute a consumer spends with content is a minute of that person’s time. We also know that ad avoidance remains a key challenge—no matter how inspiring a message may be. Through that lens, media buyers and sellers have grown increasingly focused on their media mix and spend to ensure it’s efficient and effective. In today’s market, TV buyers and sellers need individual commercial metrics—complemented by insight into what actions a brand’s message inspires—to make those determinations.Subminute reporting, with individual commercial metrics, also cancels the premise of “winning the minute.”
To bring measurement to the 21st century, you need more than words on one page. It’s a bigger remit than any single organization can take on and deliver. For our part, we’re introducing updated content watermark and signature technology to facilitate individual measurement of content and advertisements. And to expand our coverage, we’ve partnered with Extreme Reach, a global leader in creative logistics, to scale the watermarking in advertising to cover a vast majority of national linear ads on TV.
It is important that measurement be flexible and useful for all. That’s why SME will continue providing average commercial minute ratings as a transitional complement to the more granular measurement to allow the ecosystem to adapt to new metrics. And by streamlining our crediting systems and migrating them to the cloud, we’ll be able to deliver currency-grade measurement as we know it today and subminute reporting that is fundamental for SME ONE.
This article first appeared on Broadcasting + Cable.
*Source: SME Ad Intel (Jan. 1-Nov. 29, 2021)
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