21/03/2014 07:48 GMT | Updated 20/05/2014 06:59 BST

New Measurement Standards Bring Accountability to Digital Advertising

In light of the escalating convergence between TV and digital advertising, audience verification has become a key performance metric, along with viewability. As the de-facto standard bearer for TV measurement for decades, Nielsen is poised to again remain on top for 2014, thanks to something it hopes will become the industry standard - OCR.

Nielsen's Online Campaign Ratings (OCR) launched commercially in the U.K. in autumn 2012. OCR provides a set of reporting tools to help advertisers measure their digital advertising -specifically, whether brands have reached their target demographic- more effectively. It does this by providing both audience on-target percentage (how many impressions were seen by the target demographic, divided by the total number of impressions served) as well as a digital GRP (Gross Rating Points, TV's traditional success metric) equivalent.

Despite Google's recent endorsement of OCR by allowing Nielsen's technology across their online properties (notably YouTube), OCR's adoption by media buyers as digital currency is not guaranteed. It is, however, widely accepted that the accountability and transparency from GRP-based reporting is indispensable to the digital industry.

This is perfectly demonstrated by Google's simultaneous support of comScore's VCE (Validated Campaign Essentials), a similar audience measurement product that directly competes with OCR. Originally focused on desktop display and video ads in the U.S., the plan will eventually expand to other countries and platforms, including mobile.

As technology and education concurrently develop, advertisers are shifting away from traditional success metrics, like clickthrough and completion rates, in favor of audience measurability and viewability reporting. Although CTR and VTR provide interesting insight around creative effectiveness, they don't provide any insight as to who actually saw the ad - OCR remedies this.

And the situation needs fixing: if nothing else, OCR revealed that hitting your target audience online is no easy feat. More often than not, advertisers weren't even coming close to hitting their ideal demographic. The overall inefficiencies in reaching a certain age and gender created a digital arms race to develop technology that standardises not only audience verification, but cross-platform measurement.

We think that the GRP is the perfect metric to guinea pig cross-platform performance measurement, especially for video. Since video is typically associated with upper-funnel activity like brand awareness, it lends itself perfectly to examining reach and frequency, as opposed to a direct-response campaign (better measured by clickthrough and conversion rates). Moreover, the similarity between TV and online video allows a true apples-to-apples comparison across mediums.

Finding common ground is paramount, as viewers increasingly don't distinguish how they consume video. Until recently, marketers were perplexed due to the differences in buying and measuring between digital and television. TV is everyone's favorite, but no one really knows how it works - you just hit a certain number of GRPs and you can expect a certain return. Ultimately, OCR creates accountability for advertisers by better attributing changes in ROI.

Nick Reid is managing director of TubeMogul U.K.