25 April 2022|Advertising, Audience, Reach, Research

In an ideal world it should be possible to measure the total audience for a brand’s advertising, across all media, taking into account the varying impact of each medium.

In reality each medium has its own measurement method, and audience measurement for internet advertising can vary from one media owner to the next. Counts of advertising exposure across media are not remotely equal. Figuring out the total net exposure for a brand across all media, its net reach and frequency of exposure, is next to impossible.

The siloed currencies for trading media audiences typically work as follows in most countries:


  • A panel is used to measure TV audiences.
  • A television “viewer” claims to be in a room where a TV set is on. Claimed viewing is recorded by pressing a personal button on a ‘peoplemeter’ when entering or leaving the room where the TV is on. Guest viewing is recorded on the panel’s peoplemeters in the same way.
  • Viewing is measured in homes only, so excludes non-home exposure (eg. in clubs, bars etc).
  • Minute-by-minute recording of presence by the individual is matched to the channel on set.
  • Does not measure eyes on screen for ads or listening to ads.


  • Based on an in-home interview or self-completion questionnaire amongst a sample of the population.
  • A “reader” claims to have read or looked at a publication within its most recent publishing interval.
  • Does not measure readership of specific issues of titles.
  • Does not measure exposure to individual pages.
  • Does not measure exposure to individual ads.


  • Based on a self-completion diary across a week amongst a sample of the population.
  • A radio “listener” claims to have listened to a station for at least five minutes within a quarter hour period.
  • Does not measure exposure to individual radio programmes.
  • Does not measure exposure to individual ads.


  • A poster “viewer” is modelled from a mix of visibility criteria and researched traffic data.
  • Audiences to each poster are modelled from site classification data and the results of traffic research projects. Visibility adjusted impacts are used to estimate the likelihood of a poster being seen.
  • Does not measure exposure to individual ads.


  • Internet audiences are measured using either site data, or panel data, or combinations of both.
  • Calculation of audience reach for ads on sites is typically based on ‘Unique Devices’ sourced from cookie counts, typically for the prior 30 days.
  • The accuracy of audience measurement from site-centric data is subject to a number of issues: a) up to a third of internet users delete their cookies each month, and they do so an average of four times each month. Cookie deletion means that unique visitors may by overstated by several times. b) Additionally, cookies overcount unique visitors because many people use the internet from multiple machines — for example those accessing from work and from home. c) Bots (many fraudulent) result in audience counts that are overstated (not based on human visits). d) Device counts do not provide insight on the users behind them. e) Cookies have been stopped on the Safari and Firefox browsers and will end on Chrome in 2023.
  • The accuracy of audience measurement from panels is also subject to significant issues: due to the very highly fragmented nature of the medium, panels are not large enough to accurately record the audience for most internet ads.

To summarise, here is a comparison of how an opportunity to see or hear an ad is measured by medium:

  • TV — panel claiming presence in a room where a TV set is on.
  • Print — sample claiming to read/look at an average issue of a publication. No ad-specific measurement.
  • Radio — sample claiming to listen to a station for at least five minutes. No ad-specific measurement.
  • Outdoor — modelled by combining visibility criteria with historic traffic research. No ad-specific measurement.
  • Internet — unique device visit counts with no standard industry measure of OTS/OTH for ads.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

By Frank Harrison, Croft Analytics




Scientific Advertising is a compilation of short posts on the science of how brands grow

Recommended from Medium

Americans Are Drinking Less — What Does It Mean for Marketers?

Top 10 Logo Design Trends for 2021

Logo Design Company

What kind of risk-taker are you: Maximax, Minimin, or Minimax? A decision-making framework

Sexy People Do Business Directory :)

InnovaBuzz Newsletter 22 December 2021

What are the Hottest Shopping Trends for 2021? | Host Henry Weinreich

Research & Advertising

InnovaBuzz Newsletter 22 May 2019

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Frank Harrison

Frank Harrison

I am a researcher, data scientist, consultant, and owner of Croft Analytics — see https://www.croftanalytics.com

More from Medium

Sensory Marketing: Improve Your Next Campaign

Senses for campaign

Social Marketing: Marketing in Public Sector

How Kickass is Digital Marketing compared to Traditional Marketing?

Social Marketing Review: February 2022

some posts from Thursday, one featuring a marketing person handcuffed to a lampost and the other of someone holding balloons wearing a sign that says “fuck flyering single? download thursday ps. this internship sucks”