Nielsen, the audience measurement group, will next week roll out a new approach to measuring online display advertising across the US using Facebook data and TV-style reporting, after a trial that showed many supposedly targeted campaigns are missing their goals.
Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings, tested on 80 campaigns on 15 publishers’ sites since March, will be made available to all US media buyers on August 15, giving advertisers daily reports on campaigns running on Facebook and the wider web in one place, using the “gross ratings points” data they use to track TV ads.
The early trial results had been “astonishing”, said Steve Hasker, Nielsen’s president of media products and advertiser solutions, showing that just 30 per cent of branded display advertising aimed at specific age- and gender-defined demographic groups was hitting its target. By contrast, mass-market campaigns hit their target three times out of four.
“We were pretty surprised that some sites did very well but some sites did incredibly poorly. [Advertisers] expect online to be 100 per cent accurate,” said Brad Smallwood, who runs Facebook’s measurement and insights team.
“I think we’ll see something of a flight to quality,” Mr Hasker said, predicting “a sea-change” in advertisers’ approach to online media. “Sites with more targeted content, like NYTimes.com, FT.com, TV programmes’ websites, Facebook and others will do very well,” he argued.
He declined to name sites which could lose out, but said those with less defined audiences could still attract campaigns targeted at a general audience but could struggle to convince marketers that they could reach sub-sectors of that audience.
Mr Smallwood predicted that the new metric would encourage advertisers to divert some of their advertising buys in the costly last-minute “scatter” market to cheaper online outlets.
The use of TV-style ratings would “get people comfortable” with online display advertising, but Facebook could “migrate away” to other metrics in time, he added.
“The more we standardise the measures they’re buying, the more we get them confident that these things lead to actual [returns on investment], then the more money moves over [from older media],” Mr Smallwood said.
The new ratings system combines data from Nielsen’s panels of TV viewers and online users with Facebook’s database of users, anonymised to provide just demographic data.
Facebook currently provides the information exclusively to Nielsen, which plans to add other data providers. Comscore, which competes with Nielsen online but not in TV, has launched its own platform for measuring brands’ exposure in Facebook.
Nielsen and rivals are competing to persuade advertisers that they can deliver improved insights into online advertising, and battling long-held frustrations among media agencies with the data they receive even for TV.
Facebook has been working to move advertisers away from measuring its success purely in terms of clicks and fan numbers, announcing a new “client council” at the Cannes Lions advertising festival in June to guide its strategy.
“Facebook have tremendous reach and great demographic data. Typically, people don’t lie about who they are on Facebook,” Mr Hasker said, adding that Nielsen hoped to expand the technology to track how users comment on or “like” pieces of marketing content on social media.
It is also working to introduce Online Campaign Ratings to non-US markets, starting with the UK, and to smartphones and tablet computers.