Can Single-Source Data Solve Advertisers’ Cross-Media Measurement Headaches?

Tim Cross 10 June, 2024 

Cross-channel and cross-media measurement is more important for advertisers than ever. With so many media channels competing for brands’ investment, advertisers want to be able to measure how each channel performs, as well as how they interact with each other to deliver outcomes. Understanding which part of their audience they’re hitting with each channel is key, so they know they’re not just hitting the same people multiple times across multiple media types.

But the complexity of the media space also makes cross-channel measurement very difficult. Measurement solutions tend either to focus on a small section of the media landscape where shared identifiers are available, or they build complex models which combine different measurement datasets covering different individuals, and project reach and frequency using these models.

Single-source measurement uses a different approach. It takes the standard panel methodology of measuring across a panel representative of the wider population to judge campaign performance. But instead of measuring just one media type (like a TV panel), single-source measurement companies measure across multiple media types.

This is easier said than done according to Beatgrid, a company offering single-source measurement. But the methodology gives advertisers what they’re really looking for: the ability to see how different media channels hit their KPIs with ‘apples-to-apples’ comparisons, and optimise their media plans accordingly.

Like-for-like comparisons

Single-source data is essentially the measurement of data on marketing exposure across multiple channels and purchase behaviour over time, for the same individual or household. So instead of measuring different individuals across different channels, the same individuals are monitored across all channels.

Beatgrid uses its own automatic content recognition (ACR) technology which is run from panelists’ phones. This technology recognises ads via audio, and then determines which media type and channel that ad is being shown on using proprietary encoding. This app can also be used to run surveys with panelists, measuring impact on brand metrics. And location data can be used to see real-world outcomes, such as store visits.

Terrie Brennan, who last year joined Beatgrid as chief commercial officer after over 40 years as measurement heavyweight Nielsen, says this style of measurement is crucial in order to accurately compare different channels, with like-for-like comparisons. Beatgrid’s single-source panel measures the same way across traditional TV, streaming services, and YouTube, enabling fair comparisons across these channels.

It also has advantages when it comes to building and optimising a media plan, since Beatgrid can see how individuals interact with multiple channels.

Single-source data shows which combinations of channels a brand’s target audience interact with. This shows which part of the brand’s audience is already well served, and which other channels would provide the most incremental reach, in order to get further exposure.

On the outcomes front, Beatgrid can look at which combinations of channels its panelists saw an ad on, and then map that against outcome data. Using ‘exposed’ and ‘control’ groups within this dataset, it can see how each channel performed against these outcome-based metrics.

“We can see which combinations of channels drive the highest impact, not just for exposure but for lift in brand metrics, whether it’s brand awareness or consideration,” said Brennan. “That’s really critical to an advertiser, and it changes the way they spend.”

Daniel Tjondronegoro, Beatgrid’s CEO, says that this attribution part of the equation is particularly important right now. “If you’re a marketer and you get a multimillion dollar budget from your CFO, you’d better prove you spend it wisely,” he said. “But it’s only getting more challenging because the pace of change in the industry is massive.”

Tjondronegoro said that existing tools measurement for brand metrics often fall short. Many vendors rely on recall, estimating how many times an individual would have seen an ad based on answers to a questionnaire. This may have worked when media consumption fell largely within a few major channels, but doesn’t really work today. Single-source data, by knowing how many times each individual saw an ad, solves this problem.

Technical hurdles

There are major challenges with this style of measurement, hence why it’s not done more widely by existing panel-based measurement companies.

Tjondronegoro says there’s nuance in what different single-source measurement companies actually do. Some single-source vendors combine different panels and identify audience overlaps, in order to measure media exposure across different channels for the same individuals. But this is different from what he considers to be ‘true’ single-source measurement, where just one panel is used. This means the same set of individuals are consistently measured across all measurable media types.

Technically, this is hard to pull off. ACR is becoming increasingly mainstream in the TV world, as smart TVs with embedded ACR technology use it to recognise what’s on screen and measure content and ad viewing. But outside of this kind of closed environment, ACR tech is much harder to implement.

“ACR technologies are typically made for use cases where the source of the content or the audio of the video that is matched gets inputted through a wire,” said Tjondronegoro. “What we’re doing is performing constant passive audio content recognition through a smartphone app, using the smartphone microphone.”

Major challenges here are recognising content even when audio quality is poor or there’s significant background noise, and running the technology through a lightweight app which doesn’t kill panelists’ phone batteries. Tjondronegoro says Beatgrid spent several years of R&D solving these problems.

A separate but related challenge is convincing people to sign up to the panel. Panelists are incentivised through a rewards system, which gives panelists points and gift cards in return for their participation. But again, creating an app with a good user experience, which doesn’t slow down a user’s phone, is also key. Beatgrid says that catering to these factors has enabled it to build the largest single-source cross-media panel in the world.

A crowded field

With these technical hurdles cleared, Beatgrid and other single-source vendors are now working to steer advertisers towards this somewhat different style of measurement.

Advertisers, who themselves are calling for better tools to measure their campaigns, are open to working with new measurement companies, says Brennan. This however creates its own challenges.

“Because of that openness, it’s a very crowded field”, she said. “I think there’s confusion out there, and breaking through all the noise is a challenge. But I think there is a huge opportunity, because there is an appetite for it from advertisers.”

Brennan is well versed in the long-term trends in the measurement market and the wants and needs of advertisers, as well as the companies offering alternative measurement tools and currencies, through her time at Nielsen. She said the tech and team at Beatgrid impressed her, hence her decision to join the company. And that the advantage for a company like Beatgrid, compared to a business the size of Nielsen, is its ability to quickly adapt to the needs of a marketplace. “I really feel like we can make a big change in the marketplace quickly,” she said. “And in my years of working in corporate America, there’s nothing more exciting than that!”

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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