• Robert Eckelman

Measurement for CTV is getting better, Even in its current state, it is pretty darn good

Updated: Oct 20, 2020



Lately, I have read a few articles questioning the measurement of CTV. I am quick to acknowledge the measurement is not perfect. I believe perfection is the death of progress. CTV measurement is getting better all the time. It is certainly as good as the current measurement for TV, Cable, and Radio.


The articles go on to compare CTV measurement to Nielsen or ComScore. They also tend to touch on the potential of fraud. It does not seem like these articles are produced by someone with a poor understanding of Nielsen, broadcast, and/or someone who has a stake in CTV measurement.


The last few posts I read were similar and compared the same few topics.


Statement-On broadcast TV you know where your commercial run,


Reality- this is often not true. Many commercials are sold as rotators. Even when purchasing specific programs advertisers do not pick their breaks. After over 3 decades in broadcast, I can absolutely tell you 11 PM news does not end at 11:30, and most commercials are backloaded to the last quarter-hour meaning advertisers get a lower rating than purchased. Many of the commercial breaks that local network affiliates sell are adjacent to the specific program purchased.


CTV Delivery- With CTV you are not purchasing programs you are purchasing audience. You should be asking your supplier to show you the audience profile as well as the specific geographic area where your commercial will run. You can daypart CTV, whitelist, and select specific genres. Reporting on CTV should also include the delivery of impressions by hour.


Statement- With broadcast you are reaching a certain number of people, and a specific demo


Reality- Nielsen and ComScore audience numbers are estimates. The Nielsen sample size is minuscule, under 2000 in a market of over 3 million. ComScore is much better in terms of sample size. With either rating service, the margin of error is extremely high. The smaller the rating and the tighter the demo the larger the margin of error grows. Ratings are based on the ¼ hour, not the commercial break. Channels are changed, avoiding commercials is easy. Demos are based on an individual in the household pushing a button or based on the characteristics of a household. I believe utilizing household characteristics is a better option, it is less flawed. What I really believe is that we are in a demos plus world. I am 56, I have aged out of the 25-54 demo. My interests and purchasing habits are quite different than friends my same age. I am in my prime purchasing years. If you sell cars, boats, furniture, electronics and did not target me, you lost a sale this year.


CTV- Audience delivery is based on actual impressions or not estimates. Commerciak impressions are absolutely counted at the ad server. You can use your vendor's ad server or a third party for independent verification. It is important to note, impressions are not program impressions like 1/4 hour TV impressions, they are non-sskippable commercial impressions, not program impressions. While there can be fraud, the majority of that happens in open exchanges or in the bid stream. Simple solution, do not buy open exchanges and make sure your vendor is checking the bid stream. If the publisher or SSP is delivering CTV inventory to mobile phones that is a problem that is easy to detect and remedy. I am certainly not claiming there is no fraud in CTV, but I am saying it can be detected and fixed to an extent that is more accurate than current broadcast ratings and quarter-hour ratings. As stated above we are in a demos plus world. I would suggest moving from age and gender to purchase intent, interest, lifestyle and more.


Statement- broadcast provides reach and frequency


Reality- Reach and frequency is based on current ratings with flaws and all the challenges mentioned above. I do not know when the reach and frequency formula was created, 50+ years ago… I do know the reach and frequency formula has not changed much, that is a problem our world has evolved. When the original formula was created there were a handful of stations period now the number is easily in 100+. Reach is stated as a percentage of a finite audience and Frequency is a number. Example 40% reach of A 25-54 with a 3.5 frequency. If you ask for a frequency distribution curve you would be surprised at what the real numbers tell you. If you are currently buying broadcast, or cable, ask your provider for a frequency distribution curve.


CTV- CTV can and should provide reaching frequency. The reach and frequency provided by CTV is typically a whole number, Example 35,000 households reached 4.5 frequency. CTV reach and frequency is different from broadcast because the target should be beyond simple age and gender. If you are targeting purchase intent, interests...the size of that audience would change on a 30-day basis. For Reach A hard number can be given but a percentage cannot because that total audience size is always in flex. An additional challenge with CTV reach and frequency can stem from utilizing different providers. Reach and frequency cannot be added together from different providers. There are solutions such as utilizing one ad tag (omnitag) used between providers and more are on the way such as better use of single sign-on will, Google security sandbox or Unified ID.

Statement- With Broadcast, we post our schedules. Posting is truing up schedules, comparing ratings purchased to ratings delivered at the end of a schedule. There are many inherent problems with posting. They start with all the above flaws in the current rating system. They tend to be labor-intensive and costly. When missing rating points are made good, they are typically made up in different dayparts or on an as-available basis. Even more troubling getting impressions after the sale ends, the closing of a financial quarter, or when you need them most does not help. The system is a bit rigged, running commercials in the 11:00 PM newscast at 11:35 PM or running in primetime adjacencies are two of the reasons why there are constant issues with posting schedules.


CTV-No posting necessary. Impression delivery is live or hourly. A good provider goes in daily and optimizes campaigns to make sure delivery is on target and key metrics are being delivered.


CTV offers a trove of other digital characteristics that will allow advertisers and marketers to improve campaigns. I think that also fall under measurement but they were not part of the forementioned articles so I will address them in a different post.


Nielsen was the best we had for a long time. ComScore came along and changed measurement for the better. Measurement should be continually changing and adapting to how we consume media. The current measurement for CTV is in its infancy. It will get better, but even in its current state it is pretty darn good


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