Act your age: why online video buying should not be like TV

With online video becoming an increasingly important channel Tyler Greer argues treating it like TV risks losing its differentiation. 

The recent arrival of Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings (OCR) tracking across digital video is steering digital video down a path that more strongly reflects TV buying models. How publishers and networks respond will be interesting. Sure, taking traditional gross rating point (GRP) thinking into the online realm demonstrates how digital is finally straddling the offline buying world. But it may come at a cost.



GRP is a way that TV has traditionally been bought. It is calculated as a percent of the target market reached multiplied by the exposure frequency, the idea being to obtain the highest possible GRPs at the lowest possible cost.

And whilst several factors have led to its introduction to the digital video world, the main one is undoubtedly the coming together of screens into a single strategy, which in turn allows TV buyers to take a holistic view around how video is bought, run and measured. With TV being the largest pool of money supporting the digital video expansion, it’s not an unreasonable expectation. But is it the right one?

TV is the mother of all wide broadcast tools. Its access points have rationally been limited to a few stations, owned by a handful of bodies. Relative to most other media, it is expensive and access has been limited to brands who can stump up not only the money for a decent campaign spread, but also for the creative required to do so properly (notwithstanding the weird inversion by which the cheapest and most horrible TV commercials are often the ones that are the easiest to recall).

Consequently, reach has overwhelmingly been the name of the game. Yes, the buying model will revolve around a target audience and the bookings made amongst the most likely programming. But the programs themselves are even more expensive to produce. Again, this means they must attract a wide audience by which more expensive advertising can be sold around.

This is quite different to what we know about the internet. Whilst major publishers increasingly pursue content that will draw in the largest possible audience, the great majority of internet usage is dominated by mid- and long-tail sites; special interest content that draws in user seeking a specific topic. It is a natural audience filter.

What does all this mean?

For a start it means that by examining the consumption of users we can form a picture about the kinds of consumers they are. We can determine their interests, their needs, what they are in-market for, what drives them to certain considerations at the top and at the pointy end of the consideration funnel. It tells us what kinds of people are attracted to certain categories and brands. And it is utterly different to buying against GRPs. So from where I am sitting, moving away from a system that tracks the fundamentals of digital video to a model that is based on pure reach runs a very real risk of being incredibly wasteful for some brands.

The truth is that people do not always act their age (look around your office). In fact, they have never been less likely to do so. People in their 40s attend music festivals (as my Facebook feed photos from friends in Coachella a few weeks will attest); grandmothers buy cars designed for young girls; people in their 20s actually do care about their superannuation. Media therefore needs to seek out its audience by behavioural traits, not just by demographics.

Age and gender may once have been enough to consider when planning a campaign. But the consumer world is now too large, too fragmented, and too in control of its own consumption for this to be an adequate model for determining a target audience. As we move towards a model in which buyers only pay for an audience that slot into the parameters of a GRP buy, we are discounting all those outside that group who would otherwise be open to a brand message.

In the age of Big Data, which promises, and is beginning to deliver, more granular detail to better help brands connect with their audiences than ever before and at a time when digital marketing is hitting its mainstream stride, should we really be adopting the ‘me too’ approach that panders to the status quo or as an industry should we be investing in our own meaningful measurement. I know where I’d rather put my money.

Tyler Greer is director of sales, Australia & New Zealand, for AdoTube 


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