Auditing Digital Non-Digitally
This chart above displays the challenge that the market research industry (MRX) will increasingly face in the future. Facebook (FB) users are 52% of the US population while Nielsen ratings are reported on a sample less than 0.01%…
This comes off as a discussion heated up on over-claimed audience numbers from FB that cannot be explained in any reasonable manner.
And here’s the rub…
The over-estimated numbers were brought to light by a journalist — and not by a media planner or others involved closely with the marketing community!! This IMHO reveals the almost blind faith that the community has in its obsession with everything ‘digital’.
In the last few years, there’s been a heated discussion on problems with AdTech and concerns with the increasing power of the duopoly of Google and FB. Digital deliveries are in question, even though Digital dominates client media budgets in the West. The opinion leaders who discuss and debate these issues are mainly from the advertising, marketing or academic fraternities. The MRX community which ideally has the resources at hand to lead this, should have stepped in to the discussion and had a more leading role.
Perhaps part of this I am guessing is how the MRX industry is going overboard in catering to the fads that the marketing community naively follows. The emphasis is clear when one looks at the events calendar for the industry global body ESOMAR where a Big Data conference has been introduced while conferences on audience measurement have been reduced. A message that goes out is that digital works and conventional audience measurement is not exactly as important and possibly even on its way out. (In one of my posts I’d suggested that the new media research would in fact show us where marketing is headed)
And that chart right on top is a perfect illustration of this. Here the #mediasnack folks seem to be batting for MRX when they make the point that even with a small coverage Nielsen’s numbers are undisputed and THE currency as far as TV’s deliveries are concerned.
But to a naive observer it might not be obvious, as this recent FB audiences episode just revealed. A massive over-claim was simply left unobserved or unchallenged, and it took a relative outsider — a ‘non-native’ to identify this.
The issue with digital is that it measures itself. And it is ironical because ideally the in-built tech should actually have been perfect for audience measurement. Transparency is a issue regularly cited against FB.
Which is where MRX comes in. In the last century as various mass media grew there was a demand to understand and measure deliveries. MRX was able to help marketers and media buyers in providing them independent, reliable readings of readership, listenership and viewership.
The real power of the digital ecosystem will be showcased best not by FB or Google, but by WeChat in China. With a majority of Chinese using it for messaging as well as for payments, purchases, travel etc it has the potential to actually accurately measure how different marketing and media initiatives impact purchases. (The irony being that the growth and adoption of WeChat was driven by the fact that it didn’t allow any advertising whatsoever in its initial years).
However, going by problems of transparency and over claims, it is going to be difficult to take any learnings on the digital experience at face value. It would be a lost opportunity.
An independent audit/ measurement is required, and the MRX industry could easily step in and play an active role in supporting the marketing / media buyers.
That is, assuming it wants to…
NOTE: This post reflects only my personal opinion and not that of any organization or industry body. It was first published here.