Journal of Advertising Research
source: Gian Fulgoni (comScore) and Andrew Lipsman (comScore)
How can viewing of television commercials be measured effectively when tens of millions of people are watching myriad program options on different platforms? As audiences have become more platform agnostic in their viewing behaviors, traditional television-advertising measures have lost relevance. Increased fragmentation and time shifting (viewing of programs after they have aired, through digital-recording devices and through online and mobile streaming options) have led to steep declines in prime-time ratings for many of the top broadcast-network shows. In many cases, however, there are not fewer viewers in total; they simply have shifted where and when they are viewing. The inability of traditional methods to account fully for fragmented viewing audiences has created an urgent need for improved cross-platform audience measurement and has prompted a red-hot debate over the quality of metrics in television’s future.
One certainly can envision in a not-too-distant future when the large majority of viewing occurs in nonlinear fashion outside the C7 window (the first seven days after a program’s original showing). Which metrics will we turn to when that happens?
This environment demands precision measurement of advanced audiences on an unduplicated basis across platforms. Cumulative metrics of reach, frequency, and gross rating points will need to be calculated on a more granular basis, so that campaigns can be planned and evaluated with an understanding of how quickly their target audiences can be reached.
We ultimately believe the industry is headed toward a metrics convergence that will be defined by the common framework of reach, frequency, and audience but empowered by digital’s ability to increase the granularity of reporting. Digital measurement increasingly must standardize around daily and weekly reporting, whereas television needs to adapt to standardization around more narrowly defined audience segments.
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