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TV and online measurement: You say TAM, I say VAM… Let’s call the whole thing off!

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At least for now. Singapore recently hosted the first Asia-Pacific Television Symposium and unsurprisingly it was audience measurement that took centre stage for many of the speakers. The hot topic of the day is definitely centred around the many different methodologies now being employed globally to ensure that all video viewing is being successfully captured and monitored; as opposed to just those viewers who are viewing the old-fashioned ‘box’ in the corner of the room.

We often look to the east to try and predict the future and in this instance it involved multi-contractor collaborations designed to understand the holistic viewing habits of each market. MMS in Sweden and BARC in India shared plans of how they are effectively cherry-picking products from approved TAM (Television Audience Measurement) suppliers as well as tech companies to try and create a system that gets to the truth of video viewing across multiple platforms.

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It’s interesting and, dare I say it, somewhat concerning that the UK’s BARB measurement system were still being held aloft as one of the leading lights of the global TV measurement industry at the conference. Maybe I shouldn’t be so dismissive of the fine work that is being done in the UK. It is doubtless that audience measurement in the UK is still better than that of other markets, but unfortunately it doesn’t alter the fact that it is still pretty flawed.

There is a real need to have a more detailed understanding of how video is being consumed more widely in today’s world of multiple video touchpoints, and a collaborative approach to realising this is definitely important. A ‘one size fits all’ methodology will not work. Each market is fundamentally different and the UK is unique to most; one particular unique aspect to UK viewing consumption is a very basic one; when it’s 6pm in Inverness, it’s 6pm in Bournemouth! This is one of the key reasons why online video viewing in the UK will struggle to hit the same levels as it will in markets (such as the US) with multiple time zones. And this is also a reason why the focus for BARB should not be on Project Dovetail but more so on fixing the more fundamental issue of ‘live’ measurement.

Audience measurement now needs to go beyond viewing. There is an increased focus on evaluating ‘share of mind’ (rather than share of viewing) through social platforms and it is doubtless that this can be a valuable tool in understanding how individuals are engaging with content in the shape of programme, video or advertising content. However, just because something is sharable doesn’t mean it will deliver for your business! There is an opportunity here to take advantage of the delta between ‘measured’ audience through the BARB system and the truth. We use real time first party data to get a true understanding of how programmes are delivering traffic to sites and how that traffic then behaves as it moves through the funnel. This should be the true goal of any TV campaign because action/engagement is what ultimately determines the success of that campaign. You don’t need BARB, or Kantar, or Nielsen to tell you that…you just need your customers to do the talking.