A nascent ad measurement system combining TV and internet audiences could be up and running in major Southeast Asia markets by the end of the year, helping tackle one of the major obstacles preventing more brand spend from moving online.
In Southeast Asian growth economies, the internet still lags TV for reach and time spent for mass audiences – key targets for brand campaigns from big-spending advertisers.
Nonetheless, rising online video viewing can help media planners reach light TV viewers while meeting reach and frequency targets for less money, as advertisers look to maximize ROI.
Now, research agency Nielsen is planning to add combined TV and online measurement to its Digital Ad Ratings product, a tool designed to give advertisers a better understanding of who has seen their online ad campaigns.
In Asia, Digital Ad Ratings has just been introduced to Southeast Asia and Japan, after launch in China earlier in the year.
Digital Ad Ratings, formerly known as Online Campaign Ratings, has been available in Western markets, including Australia, for a number of years.
“This launch is for digital, with the intent to quickly move to providing cross-screen reporting,” Nielsen’s head of digital audience measurement in Southeast Asia, North Asia and Pacific, Stuart Pike, tells Media Business Asia.
“In Southeast Asia, we intend to launch cross-screen ratings in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia,” Pike adds.
Determining whether online viewers are seeing an ad for the first time, or if they have already seen it already on TV, represents a holy grail for media planners, remarks Isabelle Turpault, digital director in the Philippines for media agency ZenithOptimedia.
“That will have a huge impact in terms of budget allocation,” she says.
“You could now look at whether online is delivering incremental reach versus my TV buy, or just duplicated reach. Both have value, but we would architect campaigns differently.”
While direct response campaigns moved relatively quickly online, where advertisers can get immediate feedback on performance in terms of leads and sales, harder-to-measure brand spend has shifted at a slower pace.
These rely on demographic data to plot reach and frequency curves, which are more effective at gauging ROI for brand advertising than online likes or clicks.
Online behemoths such as Google and Facebook have entered the fray with their own reach and frequency tools, as they bid for a larger share of brand spend.
Nielsen’s tool potentially accelerates the online transfer of brand spend, a mainstay of TV advertising, by making it easier for marketers to analyse the impact of campaigns after they have run.
A sharper view of online audiences that can also be applied across traditional media is potentially game-changing for media owners in Southeast Asia.
YouTube, as the biggest reservoir of online video inventory in the region, could gain the most at the expense of traditional broadcasters.
At the same time, other digital power players such as Facebook and Twitter, which have been rolling out their own video products, also stand to benefit.
“YouTube is usually the first step when you look at moving money into other platforms, to make your buy more efficient,” Turpault says.
“I think the advent of this tool will help us go beyond YouTube at some point.”
levers of change
Much depends on the actual functionality that Nielsen introduces.
In Asia, Digital Ad Ratings just covers activity on desktops and laptops for now. Coverage will extend to include consumption on smartphones and tablets via browsers and apps sometime next year.
The service also provides information on age and sex, two of the three key parameters used for brand campaigns, making life easier for media planners.
The third core measure – socio-economic classification (SEC) – is currently missing. It is also arguably the most important of the three in growth markets where spending power can vary dramatically across the population.
“The biggest waste is not on age and gender,” notes Naman Sharma, Havas Media Group’s head of research and analytics.
“The biggest wastage comes from socio-economic classification – the ability to pay. An advertiser’s biggest worry is showing ads to people who would never be able to buy the product.”
Digital Ad Ratings uses aggregated data from Facebook to provide information on age and sex across much of the world (Tencent fills the same role in China).
In the US, the researcher also uses data from Experian to provide additional information on areas such as estimated household income, ethnicity, family size and education level.
Additional sources could come on stream in Asia, although market information tends to be thinner on the ground in growth markets, slowing shifts in media spend.
True fusion between sprawling online panels and much smaller TV ratings panels also remains a formidable challenge worldwide.
The biggest lever of change however might not be online audience information at all, but data on digital ad spend.
Media and marketing activity from rival brands are a major factor when drawing up plans for traditional media. In Southeast Asia however, there is no information describing what happens online.
“A lot of benchmarking in media happens in competitive pressure calculations,” Sharma says.
“Nielsen, being a company that has done that for other mediums, is in a better place than other companies. That’s the eventual game plan I’m guessing. That will be extremely useful.”