Campaign gross ratings points (GRPs) have recently been discussed as a breakthrough in online ad campaign measurement and cited as the ‘new online currency.’ However, there is nothing new about it. These metrics have existed for many years, with Comscore supplying online GRPs for more than five thousand ad campaigns since 2007. Today, Comscore’s Campaign Essentials service, first introduced in 2010, is the global industry leader, being used to analyze hundreds of online campaigns each month across 17 countries. Campaign Essentials builds upon Campaign Post Buy, a Comscore service first introduced in 2007, which first delivered campaign GRPs and demographics, and has been used to evaluate thousands of campaigns since inception. This product evolution is consistent with Comscore’s track record of leading innovation in all aspects of online measurement.
At the same time, our customers, who have collectively measured thousands of online ad campaigns, tell us that GRPs, while useful in TV, are much less useful unto themselves for online measurement. The very nature of online advertising, where cookies are used by ad servers as the determinant of exposure frequency but which are deleted by about 30% of Internet users in a month, can result in severe delivery skews and exposure overkill, with a small number of users being exposed to hundreds of impressions, while a substantial number of users receive only one impression (that they may not even see because they never scroll down “below the fold”). An illustration below shows an example of two campaigns with the same level of GRPs but more than a 300% difference in audience reach.
Campaign Essentials leverages Comscore’s pioneering Unified Digital Measurement (UDM) methodology, which combines person-level data from our proprietary panel with census-level page views or campaign impressions obtained from ad server data, to deliver a highly accurate measurement of people reached with an ad campaign. Comscore first introduced UDM two years ago and expanded this approach globally in early 2010. We currently receive census page-level information from more than 90 of the top 100 U.S. media properties, and 80 of the top 100 global media properties. This industry adoption reflects a consensus that any accurate online measurement service must have a combination of a robust person-level panel data with a census-level site-side measurement overlay.
Comscore Campaign Essentials’ approach helped overcome the perils of cookie inflation caused by cookie deletion and users using multiple browsers or machines, offering a significant breakthrough in online campaign measurement. Similar to site audience measurement, campaign measurement needs to be unified with ad server counts, which measure every delivered impression but can only report campaign reach based on unique cookies rather than people. This cookie-based reach is typically inflated by 50% to 300% because of cookie inflation. Obviously, reach is a critical objective that advertisers need to have measured accurately.
Comscore has solved the complexities of adapting the UDM methodology to campaign measurement, including granular reporting at the creative, placement, publisher and country levels. It is because of the UDM methodology that we are able to provide this granular methodology at scale on a global basis for the 43 individual markets currently reported by Comscore. The methodology even allows clients to create custom segments to answer specific business questions related to their campaign objectives. This granularity is available for demographics beyond just age and gender, such as household income, household composition, region and any other demographics reported in Comscore MMX.
So the availability of GRPs is not news, but the learning about their applicability in the digital environment has not yet been broadly absorbed. In short, Comscore’s position is that GRPs in and of themselves are simply not sufficient for either planning or measuring the effectiveness of campaigns. By leveraging the extensive learning we’ve had from our UDM initiative – which combines panel and census data – over the last several years, Comscore is working on a number of initiatives to address this, which we think will have important implications for the industry.
A core ingredient in these developments is the Comscore panel, which is the largest continuously measured panel of its kind. This enables us to accurately measure the audience demographics of a campaign at a granular level. Our available sample size is many multiples of the sample size required for accurate statistical measurement of audience demographics. Larger sample sizes are only better if they accurately reflect the overall demographic composition of the population.
Our goal has always been to provide our customers with the highest quality and most useful information possible. Importantly, the accuracy of the demographics used in the sample is significantly more important than the size of the sample alone. In contrast to getting person-based demographic data as used in Campaign Essentials, resorting to the use of demographics from cookie data provided by third-party source sites, can be problematic for a number of important reasons:
Perhaps a larger issue is that when data from select publishers is used to generate reporting on other publishers, it is no longer objective third-party measurement. For example, when media planners receive a report on how well site A is reaching the demographic target, site A will tend to look strong if it is the source of the demographic information, because its own data are used for both targeting and demo reporting. If media buyers are buying on percentage of target delivered, site A may appear to hit 100% of the target while site B ends up only delivering 80%. The reality is that site A might have also delivered 80% but appears to have delivered 100% because its data was the source of the reporting. Naturally, publishers, advertisers and agencies are interested in neutral third party measurement which does not favor one site’s audience over another.
Finally, Comscore Campaign Essentials is delivered via a powerful but intuitive UI. This UI provides for flexibility to view a host of variables (audience by site, placement, creative size, creative type, creative theme, etc.) and also allows for custom aggregation of placements. For example, if a marketer would like to bucket various placements into themes such as contextual, audience, remarketing, etc., simple drag-and-drop technology enables this powerful insight.
Comscore’s perspective is that accurate demographic, reach and frequency reporting is critical, but is only the beginning of a marketer’s need for campaign insights. Through the Comscore AdEffx suite, we also currently provide information on creative messaging optimization, branding impacts, online and offline sales, and behavioral interactions with the ad campaign, such as searches for the advertised brands, or subsequent visitations to the advertiser’s site.
True to Comscore’s heritage of forward-looking innovation, we have been hard at work for the past twelve months developing the next generation of campaign measurement products tailored to meet fast-changing industry needs. During the next 60 days, we expect to introduce solutions that we believe have the potential to revolutionize the industry and usher in a much more valid new currency. Our strategy has always been to be the first to develop the solutions our industry seeks, and to constantly renew our edge even when our competition eventually catches up with yesterday’s innovation. Our approach to campaign measurement is no different.