Opinion: Out Of A Crisis, A Solution: End The Myriad Of Vanity Metrics

by Jed Meyer, Managing Director, North America
Thursday, June 11, 2020

As remarked during the ’08 economic downturn, “don't waste a crisis” was an opportunity to make improvements in the United States’ financial infrastructure. 

Similar logic applies to creating media plans that will reach key consumers, especially as we see shifts in behavior and booms in streaming. We as marketers must respond to these changes in order to reach our target consumers. 

During P&G's recent earnings call, CFO Jon Moeller remarked that as consumer behavior and media usage changes, "there's big upside here in terms of reminding consumers of the benefits that they have experienced on our brands and how they have served their and their families' needs, which is why this is not a time to go off air." Static media plans must evolve to meet the current reality.

One major gap within those media plans? Crafting a solution to the measurement conundrum. By seeking measurement standardization, marketers step closer to understanding true consumer impact.

While the word "measurement" means many things to many people, marketers must define what it means to them and their company as a first step. What are they seeking to measure and demonstrate -- brand awareness, an action (call? click?), sales? What techniques can they leverage to learn more about the desired audience, and in turn measure their engagement and response?

COVID-19 and its resulting "shelter in place" rules have redrawn our usable world within the four walls of our homes. Concerts, like Global Citizen's One World: Together at Home, appear televised instead of in amphitheatres, while cooking classes rely on screen-to-screen interaction versus hands-on help.

This shift has led to an unsurprising rise in the overall growth of video tuning levels, with daytime dayparts and news programming experiencing increased viewership.

Explosive growth in OTT sources has occurred as well. As the COVID-19 pandemic beats on and causes a climate of sheer uncertainty, one thing remains clear: Americans are spending more time -- and money -- on streaming content.

According to Nielsen, total weekly streaming minutes per person in the U.S. have increased across Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube. Between February 24th and March 16th, Amazon viewership increased by 4.5 minutes per week, Hulu by 3.9, Netflix by 10, and YouTube by 6.6.

Other platforms yielded staggering viewership shifts as well, seeing a 16.1-minute-per-week elevation.

In total, weekly streaming minutes went up by 41.1 over a three-week span, a trend that continued and accelerated well into April. Within that, some surprises emerged with categories that we previously would consider 'also-ran' content. For example, if you look at changes in monthly performance by category across all content types, Fitness went from -15% in January, the month of New Year's fitness resolutions, to 147% in March.

Not only time, but also money spent increased during this period. According to WSJ and Recurly Inc., the latter of which provides billing and other services for thousands of subscription companies, consumer spending on paid subscriptions for streaming TV and video jumped 32% in the week of March 16th from the prior week.

We all have dialects, but we need to determine a common language. The industry has talked about cross-platform measurement since before my daughter was born. (She is 17 now.)

In the current climate more than ever, brand advertisers must gain the ability to assess this transformed landscape by comparing "apples to apples," looking at NBC against YouTube and Roku.

An independent third party such as Nielsen, comScore, or Kantar would historically provide the data. However, today's hyper-fragmented world has spurred brands to reconstruct the tuning from disparate sources.

Brands are not alone. First, they can end the obsession with vanity metrics and fake facts peddled by new platform and media opportunities by looking at actual measurement as opposed to just tracking.

Second, they can increase testing and learning, enabling brands to evaluate the new opportunities before investing more deeply.

Third, they can ask questions and seek trusted, independent guidance.

Failure to act will hinder growth and make it harder to adapt product offerings to this rapidly changing consumer landscape. Look to strong research and opinions that can confirm your revised plans for targeting this evolved audience -- and win by demonstrating the impact of those new engagement plans in the months to come.

The article was published on MediaPost, here.

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