Origin boss: ‘surprising’ that TV broadcasters haven’t yet signed up

Tom George
CEO, Origin
speaking at 'The Future of TV Advertising Global'

The proven power of TV and the level-playing field argument are pretty compelling reasons to participate in Origin’s cross-media measurement solution, writes the ISBA-backed initiative’s CEO, Tom George.

As a relative newcomer to the world of audience measurement, I read Thinkbox’s Matt Hill’s article with great interest.

I certainly agree with his viewpoint that it is a golden era for opinions about media measurement. As someone who has spent 30 years in the ad industry, I have used on a daily basis (and probably taken for granted) the excellent audience measurement data that the joint-industry-currency infrastructure has provided to the industry since their inception (in 1931, I believe, when ISBA launched the Audit Bureau of Circulations for the print market in the UK).

Little did I realise the amount of debate, opinion, agreement/disagreement and passion that exists in what I suspect most people think is a sedate part of the industry.

And that, as Hill rightly points out, is down to the fact that the world of audience measurement is now increasingly complicated and advertisers are no longer getting all they need from the measurement ecosystem. The system must enable them and their agencies to make informed decisions which will help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their advertising campaigns.

On the appointment of Phil Smith as Director General in 2017, this was ISBA’s members’ top priority. The launch of a project to find a solution (that was aligned with what was happening globally via the Word Federation of Advertisers), eventually resulted in the Origin programme which is now in its third year of funding and development.

Despite what I still hear in some quarters, advertiser demand is the reason for Origin’s existence and is the reason why Origin remains the number-one priority for ISBA and its 170 Origin-funding members — representing about 40% of adspend in the UK.

The launch of the Origin Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in 2024 will allow advertisers to measure the statistics Hill refers to — producing deduplicated cross-media reach and frequency ad campaign measurement across digital video, digital display and linear TV.

Origin’s role is to facilitate, not to judge

On the face of it, this would appear to be an uncontentious first-stage deliverable from the Origin platform. But it is an ambition that tends to surface with passion, the robust and often opposite viewpoints I referred to earlier.

Measurement of different ad formats on different platforms with different standards is very hard. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t attempt to deliver the answers for our clients.

Putting myself in an advertiser’s shoes, if I’m running a video campaign on linear TV, broadcaster video-on-demand (BVOD) and YouTube, for example, of course I want to be able to measure deduplicated reach and frequency. And, of course, I realise that my ad is appearing in different environments with differing viewability standards.

And this is where the debate gets most heated. For example, that you should only ever make ‘apples with apples’ comparisons. Unfortunately, life is more complicated than that and normal people don’t insist on (or even register) the necessity of such a comparison when they’re consuming ads.

So back to Origin — we realise the complexity of measurement and comparison. Our aim is to deliver a flexible system that allows the interrogation and surfacing of data as requested by the market.

So, for example, Origin will allow the comparison of 100% ad completion rates only or sound-on or all impressions and so on and so forth. Our role is not to mandate what are valid comparisons nor to determine what the appropriate quality thresholds are (although Media Rating Council minimum standards will be included). That’s the role of the many experts at agencies in conjunction with their clients. It’s a role the agencies have always played and arguably one that is needed more than ever.

The comparison challenge is the argument most often cited by Origin detractors — in that it could lead to lowest common-denominator planning and reporting. For the reasons mentioned above, I think that is unequivocally wrong and does a great disservice to our industry.

What Origin will bring to the market — for the first time, anywhere in the world — is a single-source dataset that also includes independently audited and verified audience data from the large platforms and that allows level playing field analysis that hasn’t been possible before.

Lowest common-denominator planning

If I were being contentious, I could say that in the absence of a platform like Origin, then lowest common-denominator planning has already happened. I will leave the reader to draw their own conclusions about the shape of media investment in the UK as it currently stands in absolute terms and relative to other countries.

Returning to Hill’s article: he makes the points about setting a high bar for the definition of what constitutes a view and the importance of context.

This is absolutely the case Thinkbox should be making when selling its medium relative to the many other homes for advertisers’ media investment: selling the benefits of 100% completed views and the ‘qualititative magic’ of TV’s context. In the same way that the digital platforms will make the case for the effectiveness of their ad formats, their own view definitions and the engagement levels of their products.

That’s why I remain surprised that the broadcasters are not part of the Origin stakeholder group. Of course, it’s their decision whether they wish to join, but I think the proven power of their medium and the level playing field argument are pretty compelling reasons to participate.

Origin’s role is neither to endorse, nor to renounce, but will allow cross-media measurement and comparisons to be made (and Origin will enable media owners to supply context signals as part of the system too).

The best solution to solving advertisers’ communication challenges will presumably win out — if Origin only facilitates better and easier measurement and comparison then it will have achieved much.

Our ambition is to achieve much more.

This story first appeared in The Media Leader

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