Content and advertising: hand-in-hand in measurement or time for a divorce?

Is the relationship between content and advertising breaking or cementing? We unravel the implications of addressable targeting for audience measurement.
21 February 2022
Content advertising hand in hand
Manish Bhatia

Chief Product Officer, Media Division

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Before the advent of addressable media, both content and advertising could be measured at once – if you measured the content, then by definition you also measured the advertising.

But that relationship between content and advertising breaks down when different viewers see different ads in and around the same content. As streaming platforms and online delivery accelerate, the weaker the connection between content and advertising becomes. This is why there’s so much discussion about cross-media advertising in addition to, or on top of, cross-media content measurement.

Merging or diverging?

On the face of it, there are two fundamental questions. Firstly, will the measurement of advertising require a separate approach from that used for content? Secondly, are the metrics used to measure content still relevant to advertising, or are the measurement requirements and relevant metrics for content and advertising diverging? At our recent World Audiences Summit, we spoke to a cross-section of the industry, who had a lot to say on the issue.

Blurring lines

Reports of an imminent divorce may be overstating the issue. Many believe that content and advertising are actually becoming more entwined, that the lines between content and advertising are actually blurring.

Dentsu’s Systems & Automation Lead Marta San Pedro, for example, believes that content should continue to be at the centre of measurement. “We are evolving from media measurement towards content measurement: video-integrating television, YouTube, timeshift, etc. And the content should be at the centre of the measurement.”

The value of content

Advertising exposure opportunities are becoming more limited as ad-free video environments, such as subscription video-on-demand and YouTube premium, grow. Even broadcasters are introducing ad-free tiers. Facing this challenge, advertisers are using content to reach elusive audiences who may be less exposed to advertising, through a growth in product placement, more closely embedded marketing and branded content.

Asmita Dubey, Chief Digital Officer at L’Oréal, highlighted how L’Oréal is investing heavily in producing branded content and redefining content and consumer experiences.

Meanwhile, many participants argued strongly that content measurement is important to understand advertising impact; broadcasters in particular contended that quality environments enhance ad effectiveness.

So, who’s right? Well, put simply, both arguments are true. The media ecosystem is highly complex and cannot be reduced to simple binary truths.

Optimum solution

We believe that the optimum measurement solution must be able to measure advertising when it is delivered entirely separately from content. That is why we continue to invest in advancing our technology capabilities.

  • Our watermarking content detection technologies – SNAP and INK – provide the granularity to track individual advertising of short duration, as opposed to inferring advertising audiences from the content it accompanies.
  • Our direct integrations with content and advertising delivery platforms from data warehouses and census data from platforms serving video and display content.

But, equally, future-ready measurement needs to continue to measure content:

  • to provide vital data for media planning
  • to provide granular measurement for product placement and embedded messaging
  • to allow content owners to understand the performance of their own content and make commissioning and programming decisions that grow and retain viewers and subscribers.

This last point is particularly important. It’s vital to remember that measurement has a range of stakeholders. Advertising is important but the direct monetisation of content through subscriptions and franchising is increasing. Having total market intelligence to guide the acquisition and retention of viewers is essential.

Based on the range of expert opinions at our summit, it’s clear to us at Kantar that content and advertising aren’t quite headed for divorce. It’s crucial, though, that we can continue to partner with the industry to provide measurement that’s able to track advertising delivered independent of content, as well as within it. We will continue to serve the needs of both content owners and advertisers. To get the complete picture, that is best achieved within a single unified system.

“Agility is often misused as reason for not being precise or for establishing a measurement system that benefits the agile platform. And what good is agility when it is based on false assumptions? In my opinion, you always need a single source of truth that is reliable (Panel) and this single source has to be established and quite traditional and perhaps not the fastest manner.” – Tanja Hackenbruch, CEO Mediapulse Switzerland

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