Bridging the Gap Between TV and Digital Video: Possible, But Not Perfect

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Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings (OCR) and comScore’s validated Campaign Essentials™ (vCE) are two campaign measurement tools that have generated a lot of buzz in the marketplace, and rightfully so: many advertisers want and need to quantify online video campaigns using traditional media metrics. We offer OCR and vCE, and many of our clients find them helpful, but they’re not (yet) perfect solutions—and it’s important to understand why. Let’s take a look at how they’re being used.

Advertisers using these measurement tools typically just want to know the percent of a target audience that their campaign reached. With Nielsen OCR and comScore vCE, there are now measurement tools that validate these audiences; we no longer have to figure it all out using media math. TV advertisers have told me that without understanding how many GRPs they are getting in video, they feel like they are throwing their money away. With OCR and vCE, these advertisers can now understand the value of a video ad across TV and online. This will enable advertisers to have an overall video strategy, regardless of the screen.

Unfortunately, online audience measurement is not that simple. It’s a confusing topic that is relatively new to the industry. Let’s start with how different TV and digital are in terms of delivering ads in the first place. When advertisers run a TV spot in The Voice to reach W18-49, they know there are millions of impressions that will be delivered to viewers outside of that demo, but this isn’t considered a cause for concern. Those other impressions don’t even factor into the numbers they pull. The advertiser knows that their consumer is watchingThe Voice so they want a spot in that show, regardless of the “wasted” impressions. In the digital world, however, we control for every impression that is served. We look at the percent of impressions delivered in-target out of all impressions delivered for the campaign. That simply isn’t a concept that exists in TV; it’s happening but isn’t being monitored. In digital, the “wasted” impressions are more obvious and painful for advertisers to accept—even though this same wastage exists in TV.

Now let’s look at measurement. Here’s the obvious hurdle: although there is a common metric, there is no standard way of measuring this metric in digital, as there is in TV. We are all talking about GRPs, but measurement companies use different methodologies to validate audiences. In addition, digital measurement companies do not sell data for purely demo targeting purposes. So they can tell us how well we delivered an audience, but they can’t help us find that audience in the first place. Sure, we can buy data from a different 3rdparty to try to find an audience, but as of now, that data is not aligned to either Nielsen or comScore measurement. Just because a data vendor identifies a cookie as a W18-49 does not mean Nielsen or comScore will agree. And if the data companies were to validate their audience data against the measurement, who should they align to—Nielsen or comScore? There’s no clear standard to work towards.

In addition, don’t forget that having any other goals on audience campaigns likely means you are optimizing away from your audience. Not all users that are completing videos are going to be in a brand’s target demo. So what is the primary campaign goal – completions or audience delivery? If it’s audience delivery, pricing on in-target CPMs will get very expensive to account for all the over-delivery needed in order to reach the guaranteed audience, especially on small demos.

Now for the issue that’s often left out of the conversation. In the month of February 2013, there were one trillion (yes, trillion) ad impressions available on TV. In that same month, there were only ten billion ad impressions available in online video. Just let that sink in. The online video marketplace is 99% smaller than the TV marketplace. So yes, we can measure audience delivery online, but is it possible to fully replicate TV goals online? Perhaps not to the extent that advertisers are expecting… yet.

So what should advertisers do? I don’t think anyone disagrees that online video is a great complement to TV; the issue is that there just isn’t a ton of it yet. There are a lot of factors to consider when audience measurement is involved. On the plus side, OCR and vCE give us a measurement solution that bridges the gap between TV and video. Yes, there are challenges (and of course, we don’t have decades of data from which to learn yet, as TV does). But OCR and vCE are great solutions, and we’re happy to be able to offer them to our advertisers; it’s just important to remember that advertisers and vendors still need to test and learn together to find the right balance between in-target delivery needs and other KPIs native to online video.



Andrea is a Director on the Client Strategy team at Undertone, charged with developing complex and customized media solutions for advertisers. Andrea joined Undertone in December 2011 and was a key contributor to the re-launch of Undertone’s video offering. Prior to Undertone, Andrea worked on the media agency side, spending most of her time on CPG clients’ National Broadcast teams. In her free time, Andrea travels the country to see 90’s rock bands.


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