Brightroll, the video advertising network, recently announced their Video Impact program to track online video campaign impact on retail sales. When the announcement was made I was somewhat skeptical of the validity of the data as they chose Nielsen as the tracking firm. As a result of my skepticism Tod Sacerdoti, CEO of Brightroll, thought that a chat was in order.
Well really, his PR person did as I'm not such a big wheel that when I speak CEO's take note...no I'm no Merrill Lynch. When I write people read but who knows if they listen. Anyway, let's rewind a little and get to the heart of the matter.
The Heart of the Matter
Nielsen, as everyone knows, uses panelists, observes their behaviour and then extrapolates that out to all consumers or a specific demographic. I, having a hard science background (Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology) know that at times when you put those types of numbers together you can often make them appear however you want. Now I'm not saying that this is what Nielsen is doing, but there have been some issues with their extrapolations in the past (see Hulu vs. Nielsen The War of Numbers) and so as is my need as a journalist, I'm skeptical of the accuracy of such things.
As my new venture has taken off, R2 Relations, I have to deal in hard numbers on traffic growth, expanding community membership, etc. So I like to work with known quantities and actual trackable information.
Tod Sacerdoti, Enter Stage Left
When my doubts came to light in the Brighroll camp I was offered an opportunity to talk with Tod Sacerdoti about their Video Impact! ROI tracking service and their choice of Nielsen.
As we all know Brightroll is a big player in video advertising online. They cover hundreds of publishers, over 27 broadcasters and major media suppliers. Their goal is to automate every single piece of the video advertising process. According to Tod the two big things that are holding back video advertising online are price and lack of research. I wonder if Mark Cuban would agree with that?
When I asked Tod about a recent statement that 'broadcast mode is dead' by Trendstream Managing Director Tom Smith he replied with "we're a long way off from broadcast being dead," which is more along the lines of my thinking as well. Considering how closely Brightroll works with broadcasters I count that as a credible source.
Tod and I spoke about the state of online video advertising and he agreed that the IAB standards for online video ads are 'a step in the right direction,' and that Brightroll was excited about them. But he said that broadcast TV still has a major edge due to its "extremely effective, massive reach and universally standard ad unit and better viewing experience."
He also said that getting to that same viewing experience as is currently available on TV is a the long and winding road ahead for online video ads.
Nielsen, Video Impact!, Dollars, Oh my!
We finally got around to talking about Brightroll's Video Impact! and the decision to go with Nielsen as the metrics provider. While I'm still skeptical about the accuracy he did give some very valid reasons for their decision.
First off, he readily agreed with me that the panel format for tracking is nowhere near perfect and even went on to say that there are huge flaws with it in any media. But while working on the new service they tried to identify how to measure video ad efficacy and compare that to results seen with television advertising. Thus it became obvious that Nielsen was the best partner to cover the cross-platform nature of things and since they have dedicated panelists that scan every bar code they purchase, they have the retail impact end of things covered as well.
Video Impact! is based on Nielsen's Net Effects service and is a panel-based measurement system. The goals are to measure impact and then optimize the ad campaigns based on the results that are seen. Those Nielsen panelists with the home-based bar code scanners can realyl give some full spectrum feedback including both online and TV-based ad campaigns. Sure Nielsen is lacking in the online video technology department but they are in the trenches and working at it.
What's it all mean?
Well it comes down to how much revenue in dollars is generated by x dollars in advertising, ROI and retail sales impact. It looks at things like purchase increase percentage which then equals a certain amount of extra revenue and weighs it against campaign cost. Voila! The magic number comes into existence (with a grain of salt and a margin of error).
Tod stated that they don't expect to see a large number of ROI-positive campaigns but hope to at least be able to show advertisers that there is in fact an increase in revenue based on the online campaign to consumer retail sales pipeline.
Is this the best way to look at effectiveness of online video ad campaigns? Who knows, but right now it seems like about the most reliable based on Nielsen being present in television, retail sales and, albeit to a somewhat lesser degree, online video ad tracking.
Has my skepticism been slain? Hardly. I still maintain that a better way needs to be found than simple panel-based measurements. Perhaps with the advent of HTML 5 and the Video tag this tracking will become easier to do. But that's going to be some time down the road as browsers, publishers and advertising networks will all need to adopt the new structure and then we can begin working on some more accurate direct tracking methods. In the meanwhile the Video Impact! service from Brightroll might be exactly what you're looking for if you need to keep your online video budget from getting cut by showing how it has affected retail sales and revenue. And that's the bottom line.
My thanks go out to Tod Sacerdoti and Lindsey Zouein (wow that's a lot of vowels) from LaunchSquad for their time and willingness to work with me on this. Best of luck!