More VOD questions than answers from media owners

Media research is never perfect, never has been.  Depending on the starting perspective of the critic, mud can be thrown because the panel is too small; only a diary snapshot of a limited window in time; too broad in the questions asked (“have you seen just the front page of this paper?” this still qualified you as a reader of the whole issue, or “just seen the ad for a few seconds?”, still a viewer) Then it seems sometimes we can’t tell the difference between people and robots.

This all makes media planning more difficult in terms of precision and accuracy.

Relatively speaking TV has always been a very plannable medium for brand advertising.  Although the size of the BARB panel has been criticised, there’s been ratings available by programme, by minute.  In terms of accountability against return on investment therefore through econometric modelling TV tends to come through well.  The key here is the ability to model effect.  In TV where we can see how each spot is doing we can understand the detail of what is influencing sales more easily than other media.

Which is one factor, perhaps the “planner’s factor”, in why TV has thrived commercially.

Other media have habitually kept specific day by day performance numbers to themselves even when they are all over them privately.  Although publishers of the print medium often knew how their publication sold from day to day or week to week this data was not shared with media agencies.  This made it difficult for instance to understand their role in a campaign.  The print effect on a brand campaign might be different than expected according to average figures simply because a lull or spike in sales meant that the medium wasn’t performing as modelled.  Other media owners may just have never had any idea of accurate ratings from day to day or hour to hour.

TV was the medium with the most detailed ratings data in the public domain, a significant advantage for “plan-ability”.

It seems a shame that when there is so much shared understanding about traditional TV metrics, and indeed when the medium has benefitted so much from them over the longterm, that its hard at the moment to find the same shared answers to basic questions about video on demand.    When planners are considering the detail of VOD campaigns, we don’t yet have the equivalent shared detail, accuracy and experience of BARB data.  So we need to collaborate with media owners in seeking the information that will allow planners to put the same level of detailed thinking into VOD that we do for TV in general.  Of course clients spending millions on their audio visual brand plan expect nothing less.

Yet very basic questions seem to be receiving more and more guarded answers.  The tone of some of those answers reminds me of the kinds of answers newspapers used to give press buyers in the past, in the heyday of print, when they asked for daily sales figures, figures that the press buyers knew that the newspapers had daily access to.

Sometimes there’s the official line that gets served up: “We are unable to release unique users numbers broken out by month”.

Sometimes there’s a more human, and perhaps friendlier, response: “It’s extremely frustrating here in terms of what we can and can’t share but I am doing everything I can to get you the information you want”.

Of course planners have sources to access for data about non-linear shares of viewing, or unique reach impressions by month by supplier.  Those suppliers don’t always agree or accept the industry figures though and yet will not give detailed alternative figures. Because they don’t have them? Or because they don’t want to share them? Either way this is a step change away from the positive heritage of TV planning where data was shared, neutral and agreed.

Is it understandable that media owners are reticent to open the kimono in this way?  Maybe.  Does experience suggest that this is a good sales strategy?  Not at all.


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