Sometimes we have to make a call between big numbers and meaningful numbers

Following some big claims from women's website Mamamia in its annual upfronts, IAB's acting CEO Gai Le Roy explains why the numbers still don't add up - and why wholly endorsed currencies are the best way forward.

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest” – Mark Twain

I’ve been in the measurement industry for a very long time and ‘doing right’ when it comes to defining new industry wide metrics has never been more important.

Our industry is evolving at an incredibly rapid pace and well-publicised issues around transparency and accountability has meant that trust in digital metrics has been challenged and, in some cases eroded.

To put it bluntly, marketers deserve to trust the numbers and claims put out in market. We have to learn from the mistakes of the past (remember how long it took to be pro-active about the viewability issue?).

It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that about a month ago the IAB came out strongly against the inclusion of off platform video viewing within the Nielsen Digital Content Ratings (DCR) product.

I was clear then, and I’ll be clear now. We won’t endorse this metric until a two second video viewing qualifier is in place. This is expected to be introduced early next year and will be applied for on and off platform equally.

The IAB only wants audiences counted if they engage with videos for two seconds or more

I understand that media owners always want to make their audiences numbers look good in market (I used to work for a publisher myself) but it is simply not helpful for anyone if the IAB endorses a metric that isn’t fully formed.

It is our responsibility to provide the market with the most accurate and independent data possible and we take this very seriously. Until the qualifier is introduced, the metric just doesn’t give an accurate picture of the number of people that can be reached through a media organisation.

This has been illustrated this week at Mamamia’s annual upfronts. I’m using them as an example as they have publicly expressed – let’s call it ‘astonishment’ – about the IAB’s decision in a number of media outlets.

As I’ve said, I understand the impulse to make numbers look as good as possible, but here’s the thing. Whilst Mamamia is claiming to be the number one women’s site (and we are thrilled that the family and lifestyle category within Nielsen’s DCR is filled with local brands), the endorsed currency numbers show a different perspective.

There is a big difference between people who have chosen to visit a particular publisher environment versus a default video start within a social feed while scrolling. The later can add reach very quickly but not necessarily the opportunity to see.

Going forward, and when faced with similar issues, IAB will continue to make the tough calls in order to develop metrics that are meaningful and trusted by buyers. The audience we are measuring across digital devices is supporting what is now a $8.5 billion industry; it would be irresponsible to rush through metrics that aren’t robust as technologically possible.

To make sure that we continue to “do right”, the IAB is about to undergo an extensive review of the methodologies and metrics that are going to be useful and meaningful in the coming years.

I’ll be talking more about this in the weeks and months to follow and I’d urge all key stakeholders to become part of the process. It is going to be a critical step in making sure we get to our next destination in the best possible way.

Gai Le Roy is acting CEO at IAB Australia.


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