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Deep Dive 30 Aug 2021 - 7 min read

IAB, publishers, agencies back Ipsos and panels to crack cross-screen measurement with audio, DOOH, engagement metrics to follow – but warnings numbers may be lower, pleas for patience

By Paul McIntyre & Brendan Coyne

A panel backing panels: Amelia Ward (PHD), Gai Le Roy (IAB), Nicole Bence (Seven) and Heather White (Ipsos) think the new system will give advertisers and publishers what they need, eventually.

The IAB today officially announced Nielsen was out after more than a decade and Ipsos is in as the digital audience currency provider. The Australian market has sidelined its penchant and associated troubles for trailblazing in global digital audience measurement, hoping instead to avoid hard lessons and borrow early learnings from the UK where the Ipsos-owned "Iris" hyrbid audience panel has been operating since the start of this year. The UK's first tip: publisher audiences are likely to drop in the changeover. The new system also sees the local digital industry take first mover advantage in emerging media measurement, readying for a global push by major advertisers to develop a potentially ground-breaking cross media measurement currency. But it may take some time.     

What you need to know:

  • IAB has officially confirmed Nielsen is out and Ipsos is in.
  • It’s backing a hybrid panel system to deliver cross-media measurement and unduplicated reach, and plans to wrap in audio and drive into metrics such as engagement and attention.
  • “It will change the way we do planning”, per PHD Sydney digital boss, Amelia Ward. But she warns buyers not to expect too much, too soon.
  • IAB Chair and Seven digital sales chief Nicole Bence says the new system will give the market what it needs – but not yet clear how it will integrate with Oztam’s VOZ.
  • Ipsos local data lead Heather White says numbers dropped in the UK when new system launched, but says size isn’t everything – with engagement and other data able to tell more nuanced, granular stories.
  • Gai Le Roy: Publishers need to get tagging, ASAP.

Even if intellectually the market understands that a new methodology will mean a change in numbers, the reality can often come as a shock.

Heather White, Ipsos Australia

Cookies have been given a reprieve, but the race to own cross-media measurement globally is very much on. The IAB is preparing for looming turf wars by laying the cornerstones of a master currency that works across screens and media – and whatever regulators and privacy lawmakers can throw at the digital media industry – while promising to de-duplicate reach and push into engagement and attention metrics.

But the body and its measurement committee are pleading for patience, pragmatism – and for publishers to quickly get with the programme.

We've all seen examples of people promoting their own metrics, telling wonderful stories – but being able to compare them against their competitors is incredibly important.

Gai Le Roy, CEO, IAB

Beating panels? Not any more

Gai Le Roy says IAB's decision to revert to a hybrid measurement system that reincorporates panels – pooh-poohed for the last decade as old hat by the digital industry – hinged on industry-wide consensus for a people-based metric that means buyers can compare apples with apples across all screens, and perhaps beyond.

In Australia, some 8,000 meters are planned, via apps on phones and other devices, with OzTam data to be added on top for CTV. Meanwhile, publishers are being asked to be ready to implement tags as quickly as possible so as to be best prepared for launch in H2 2022.

It’s a significant departure from the device-based measures – largely cookies, tags and pixels – to which the industry has become accustomed.

“When we went around the market, there was still an absolute fundamental need for a ‘people’ measure, which is so incredibly hard to get from any site-centric measurement,” says Le Roy.

Currently, “even where a site has first party data and [publishers] know their people, they will also have casual audiences coming in that may not be logged-in. So understanding how many people are accessing a brand across a myriad of different devices is incredibly difficult to do. The role of an industry currency is to have that inclusive look at the market. To really understand an individual, a currency is needed that provides comparable, inclusive data, and gives reach across different devices,” adds Le Roy.

“We've all seen examples of people promoting their own metrics, telling wonderful stories – but being able to compare them against their competitors is incredibly important.”

Meanwhile, the currency will look beyond traditional media owner audiences and into areas such as “banking behaviour and shopper behaviour,” Le Roy adds.

If some numbers go down the … the accurate representation is [being able to show] a site has a more engaged audience; there are people looking across more devices spending more time. So a smaller number is not always a bad thing.

Gai Le Roy, CEO, IAB

It’s what you do with it that counts

While unduplicated cross-screen reach is the key ambition, IAB and Ipsos are aiming to bring other digital media, such as audio and out of home, into the fold. Arguably more meaningful metrics such as attention and engagement are also on the plan with the two eyeing a modular build out.

“We will look to continually innovate. Iris has got about 40-plus standard metrics in place to start with. So deeper profiling, definitely things like audio,” says Le Roy. “Attention is the hot topic at the moment, so areas like that ... Adding on ways for publishers to differentiate their own audiences and a way for buyers to understand the different benefits of different environments. So we think it's important to be able to keep adding on different things into market so people can have that depth of information,” she adds. “Broad reach is still really important, but understanding depth, engagement … we have got flexibility to add in that data.”

But on pure reach, Le Roy counters concerns that numbers may fluctuate by suggesting that size isn’t everything.

“If some numbers go down the … the accurate representation is [being able to show] a site has a more engaged audience; there are people looking across more devices spending more time. So a smaller number is not always a bad thing.”

Either way, Le Roy urges publishers to engage now in order to get the best possible picture of their audiences – especially long tail publishers.

“It's always hard to get really accurate measurement of small sites. That's why we plead with publishers to tag up.”

Seismic activity, but no earthquake

Rarely prone to sensationalism, Le Roy agrees that there will be ‘seismic shifts’ in measurement as touted by the likes of Unilever and the WFA under the auspices of Project Origin. Unilever's global media chief Sarah Mansfield told Mi3 in May that she's aiming to achieve "10 per cent plus" in media efficiencies by overlaying its own data with the WFA-backed cross-media measurement system, if it gets beyond pilot stage.

But Le Roy says the IAB’s role is as an enabler – not deliverer – of those mooted developments, should they happen.

“I think there will be [major developments]. But what we're building as an input won't be as different as the end piece [that Project Origin intends to deliver]. So when Sarah [Mansfield] is talking about big changes, it's combining input of currency, data ratings, audience reach with her own data, with ad effectiveness,” says Le Roy.

“Pulling those two pieces together will create a really different story, and that's really exciting. Our role is to provide the most accurate and credible input from a digital currency point of view and then make sure it can mix and match with a whole lot of different data – that of clients’ or other channel currencies – a to give people a full picture of what's going on.”

We're going to see more consolidation across the market. Whatever that make-up looks like, the work that Gai and the team have done to set up a really transparent, solid input [currency] is going to give the market confidence that we can then start to plug and play [other data sets and media metrics].

Nicole Bence, Network Digital Sales Director, Seven West Media

Metrics that can handle media consolidation?

Given the caveats and cool-your-boots warnings to buyers and publishers, will media at large be happy with the new measurement system when it lands?

“In short, yes,” states IAB Chair and Seven digital sales boss, Nicole Bence. She says industry was given every opportunity to feed into the pre-tender and the outcome is reflective. Of the 16 bidders, “there was pretty solid support for the Ipsos solution”.

There’s as much to do in the next 10-11 months to ensure industry support extends to the product that lands in market. But Bence is confident.

OzTam’s TV numbers will remain a mainstay for broadcasters, she says, “but I think the ability to be able to talk across a total network with the inclusion of CTV is going to be really interesting.

“Recent data [suggests there are] six to seven screens inside a household consuming content… The ability to be able to capture all of that across all of your brands and start to be able to talk to a total network story [is what publishers need],” adds Bence.

“And I think we're going to see more consolidation across the market, more channels coming together – digital, out of home, digital radio, together with broadcast... Whatever that make-up looks like, the work that Gai and the team have done to set up a really transparent, solid input [currency] is going to give the market confidence that we can then start to plug and play [other data sets and media metrics]… That is going to be really interesting for a lot of the media owners.”

Ipsos: Publishers must prepare for change

Ipsos took over the UK’s industry-backed measurement system late last year. Local digital lead Heather White thinks Australia will gain from that experience.

“It means we can hit the ground running,” says White. But she also urges patience from buyers and publishers who will need to adapt to the new system and its outputs.

“We’ve got the foundations built for us… but even with everybody wanting change, change takes time,” adds White.

“Even if intellectually the market understands that a new methodology will mean a change in numbers, the reality can often come as a shock,” she warns.

“Not even necessarily that they're big changes, but the reality just is hard sometimes for people to embrace. So people being prepared that the numbers will change is a big thing – they have to change because you can't replicate exactly what was done in the past; you're actually trying to do something that's different.”

The UK and Australian markets cannot be compared like-for-like, but White indicates that UK publishers had been used to bigger numbers under the old ComScore regime.

“I think they were higher [previously]. And that always causes problems, because we all get used to that drug,” she says. “I used to be a publisher; I liked a big number.”

But White says the flipside is better granularity and smarter audience insights for publishers and agencies to trade.

Can Ipsos replicate the rollout by June 2022?

“We think we can get there with the basic product at that time. It might not have everything… but it will have the things people need,” says White.

“It'll have audience measurement. It'll have cross-device [functionality]. There'll be a really good, robust panel and we'll start building the panel as fast as we can.”

But the hybrid system's success is also dependent on tagging. “So it’s very important for publishers to tag as quickly as they can," says White, "because the sooner we have the tagging, the sooner we can start building audience data for people to test.”

Once the core functionality is in place, the plan is to look at “de-duplication across multiple media... some time in the future”, i.e. audio and potentially other media.

“So it's cross media ready,” says White. “The other important thing about this panel is that it's mobile first, because everybody who's on this panel will have a mobile phone. They don't get to be on the panel without a mobile phone, which is really important.”

Having a solution that has that real cross-device reach is going to change the way that we plan, because you'll be able to see that pure de-duplicated audience and understand those efficiencies.

Amelia Ward, Head of Digital, PHD Sydney

Buyers: Good things come…

For buyers, “having that cross device reach, understanding and de-duplication will really be key for us,” says PHD Sydney Head of Digital, Amelia Ward.

She sees it as complimentary to other fledgling currencies.

“VOZ has its limitations from a programmatic perspective. So being able to have a currency on CTV [with] a panel-based person actually recording that they're watching something at a certain time – makes a lot of sense. It really does give a better view from an audience perspective. So I think that will be beneficial for us, and well received.”

But Ward fears that agencies – already impatient for the full functionality promised by new measurement systems such as VOZ – may place unrealistic deadlines on the new IAB-Ipsos currency.

“What will happen is agencies are going to want that faster than potentially it's going to get delivered,” admits Ward.

But she thinks buyers will be happy, eventually.

“Having a solution that has that real cross-device reach is going to change the way that we plan, because you'll be able to see that pure de-duplicated audience and understand those efficiencies,” says Ward.

“It's going to have a really big effect on not just measurement [of media] but monitoring our campaigns and the results… So having that that future focus next year is going to change how we plan digital media. Definitely.”

A footnote from Nielsen

Nielsen was unable to comment three weeks ago when Mi3 reported that IAB had opted for Ipsos, but with the news now official, CEO Monique Perry provided the following statement:

"Nielsen has provided digital content measurement in Australia for over 20 years, the last 10 as the IAB-endorsed supplier. We are extremely proud of our achievements and the role we continue to play in shaping the Australian media landscape.

"Our commitment to delivering and investing in digital audience measurement remains unchanged. Later this year we will switch on the Nielsen Identity System in Australia which will underpin our leading ad and content measurement solutions as well as Nielsen’s lift and attribution offering. This ensures that Nielsen’s digital and cross-media measurement solutions are more resilient, with the flexibility to adapt to the continual technology and regulatory changes influencing the media landscape.

"Capturing the fragmentation of consumer behaviour and the need to offer open web publishers the granularity and scale of measurement alongside the global platform integrations is still our mission."  

Perry added: "Nielsen will continue to deliver Digital Media Ratings Monthly via our hybrid measurement system until the first half of 2022."

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