ANA’s Liodice on Why the Web Should Learn to Love the GRP

Bob Liodice is CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, which has joined with the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the American Association of Advertising Agencies on an ambitious effort to harmonize Internet ad measurement with traditional media gauges. The Making Measurement Make Sense initiative foresees the establishment of a common gross ratings point measurement, a move that could radically alter how the Web is viewed by marketers. Liodice spoke about why digital media needs a traditional media measurement tool, the problem of ad impressions consumers can’t see, and the complexities marketers face when running cross-platform campaigns.

Why is getting measurement standards sorted between different forms of media so important?
It goes a long way to solving one of the confusing issues marketers face, which is cross-platform measurement. Twenty years ago it was just TV, print and radio and  80 percent was going to TV. It was no big deal. It’s different now. The ability to optimize a media budget is contingent on truly understanding the impact of the interrelation that media investment has with other media out there. The ability to understand has to be predicated on the ability to measure that impact. It brings some science to cross-platform measurement. By having that fundamental capability, we ratchet up the productivity curve of our media investments. The problem is you can’t manage what you can’t measure. It’s suboptimal anyway you look at it. Just think of the amount of dollars truly wasted. It’s probably not the 50 percent Wannamaker talked about, but it’s still a healthy chunk of change.

Why is the GRP a good idea for digital? Doesn’t it risk dumbing everything down to the lowest-common denominator?
I don’t know if it’s the lowest common denominator. I’m sure no measurement platform will be optimal. If you buy the fact that integrated marketing and cross-platform measurement are joined at the hip, our ability to do that requires some commonality. If we don’t have ability to measure on on an apples to apples basis it becomes difficult to deliver that cross-platform measurement. It may not be a perfect solution, but it will fill in the gaps of what’s lacking. Five years ago we thought the Internet was the most measurable medium out there. Then we found there were many problems we didn’t appreciate initially. Conceptually it seemed most appealing but it came with its own set of issues.

Is the viewable impression standard going to be used to weed out bad actors who are loading pages with ads that pretty much don’t exist to consumers?
It’s conceptually appealing. Just serving an ad doesn’t mean that it has been viewed. From a marketer’s standpoint, if there’s one major issue it is we’re paying ads that are not necessarily seen, whether that’s below the fold or not loaded. Then we’re wasting money. The viewable impression starts to overcome that by proving a standard that the consumer has the ability to see the ad. It will give marketers a greater degree of confidence. Intellectually that’s a great leap compared to serving an ad. That doesn’t mean the consumer is going to look at it, it means there’s the opportunity to be seen. It puts [digital] on the same playing fields as TV. The ad has the ability to be seen even if you run to the kitchen. Nobody’s guaranteeing it was seen.

Is brand measurement a big factor holding back Internet advertising?
It’s critically important. Brand lift is the function of the quality of the exposure and the creative of the ad. Creativity has always been an issue [online]. It’s diminishing somewhat. It still requires a greater confidence that those particular ads are far more appealing than what they used to be. The level of lift that’s hampered by poor creative has really held back marketers’ love affair with digital advertising. It’s moving in the right direction. I have far more confidence that online ads are being served that are far better than they were. There’s still an effort necessary to put them on par with where TV and radio are. Online creative needs a healthy lift upward to get marketers more comf ortable that their brand punch will be where it is with TV and radio.

Where do you think the privacy debate will go? Has the threat of bad legislation passed?
It’s always going to be an issue, even if it’s temporarily subdued because of economic issues, i can guarantee it will be a front-burner issue for the time to come. We can feel proud of the self-regulatory efforts that have been put into effect. We’ve been working hard for four years to create the principles of online behavioral advertising, the privacy icon and to serve notice to consumers. It has met with support from the FTC and key legislators. I personally believe we’ve made tremendous leaps to the delight of many in Washington. The important message is the industry has listened carefully to legislators, [federal] agencies and public policy groups. [The threat of serious legislation or regulations] is never off the table but i think it’s seriously diminished The principle of self-regulation is well thought of here in the U.S. There’s a very simple reason. If you legislate today, it will be archaic a year from now. If you create a series of rules good for today they will be antiquated in the near future.

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