Colleen Fahey Rush Sizes Up Measurement at CIMM Summit

by Daina Amorosano, Viacom

Colleen Fahey Rush

At Viacom, we’re increasingly moving to a place where we don’t talk about linear versus digital or on-air versus online.  We create content.  Our many brands serve diverse audiences on every platform, and we develop programming that can live on every screen our audiences want.

Of course, there are obstacles in that march to progress – namely the lack of a uniform, widely accepted way to measure consumption across platforms.

This is the challenge that was on the brains of those in attendance at the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement’s (CIMM) Cross-Platform Video Measurement Summit this afternoon. The conference brought together more than 300 researchers and marketers in what was billed as an “industry call to action.”

Colleen Fahey Rush, our EVP and Chief Research Officer, sat alongside other marketing leaders and ‘research titans’ on the panel “Marketing Leaders Share Business Challenges Driving Cross-Platform Measurement” to frame the cross-platform business challenge for a packed room of attendees.

Not surprisingly, the panel’s consensus seemed to be that the current lack of cross-platform measurement was a crisis. Without a way for advertisers to compare results, there’s no guide for future spending, and no way to measure the effectiveness of innovation in marketing.

“Our integrated marketing people and our creative people have innovated and created so many different types of elements and ways for ads to accompany our content on all these different screens,” Rush said.  “Of course the challenge becomes: What kind of impact are we having? How many people saw what’s on these different screens?”

A lot of custom research and work with a lot of different vendors goes into understanding viewership across platforms, and the effectiveness of multiplatform advertising.

“We do a lot of test and learn,” Rush said. “We do learn a lot from all of these different experiments and innovations. And we share and partner on learning those things with advertisers.”

So, what’s the greatest need right now?

“It really would be great if there were at least one more tool, a tool that was syndicated, that we could all congregate around, that at least could give me basic metrics around reach, ratings-like information for TV online and mobile – something that will help with the speed of business and that will help transact more easily,” Rush said.

Ed Erhardt, President, Global Customer Marketing and Sales for ESPN, called for the need to get to a place where average minute audience and viewable impressions become available across video.

“We spend too much money doing workarounds because we don’t have a uniform currency,” he said.

Rush agreed that the availability of average minute audience and viewable impressions across video would offer some resolution – but she doesn’t see all the work we do to understand more about the experiences going away.

“I don’t see that part going away because that’s where you know a lot about how certain formats work on certain screens – until you get to the point where you kind of just know and you don’t need to do so much of that anymore,” she said.

But you also need your advertising partners to also believe in what you know.

“That’s where there’s a lot of doing it together until we’re all at the same place around what formats are optimally working online right now,” she said.

On another hand, Rush pointed out a different manifestation of the crisis: research is now everybody’s business – which, she argued, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“There are so many eyeballs that aren’t necessarily being captured by individual measurement, to say nothing of cross-platform measurement,” she said. “It’s at a pitch. And that’s why a room like this can get filled – which is good. We need to come around it together to fund it, to solve it, to bring more people to the party, as opposed to just the usual suspects driving the experimentation.”

Rush, for one, is finding that engineers are her friends.

“The solution is obviously going to be very technology-reliant,” she said. “I’ve spent more time with [engineers] over the past couple years as I become more involved in forwarding measurement initiatives, and they are so helpful in figuring out what it’s going to take to get to the next place for cross-platform measurement.”

Viacom has been active in the development of TAXI and is a backer of the initiative, which aims to establish a sort of UPC code to track content and advertising across screens.

You can catch footage from the Summit here.

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