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The fundamental disconnect on digital GRPs

The fundamental disconnect on digital GRPs Tom Hespos

This week, Nielsen announced the development of a measure of digital campaign ratings, a metric it says can be used in conjunction with offline measures to give a more complete picture of the combined reach of offline and online campaigns.

The debate over whether older exposure metric models should be retrofitted to digital media is one I don't want to rehash, other than to say that I can see both sides of the argument. However, I do often see a fundamental disconnect between the approach of agencies and their clients in applying these measures to digital.

There are two important roles that reach, frequency, and GRP measures (R/F/GRP) play for advertisers. Nielsen's combined measure helps fulfill on one of these. Essentially, the role R/F/GRP plays for clients in the planning cycle helps them make comparative judgments regarding exposure tradeoffs when deciding on the right media mix. Thus, it becomes important to be able to use digital R/F/GRP to be able to support statements like "pulling X GRPs out of television gets me Y GRPs in digital."

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I find that many clients who care about awareness and brand metrics as a primary concern don't necessarily want to retrofit digital to R/F/GRP in order to have a daily metric to optimize against. Rather, they want to understand how the investment levers work when offline media are ratcheted up or down, and what exposure levels that can give them within the digital realm.

Sure, advertisers do want to know that their predictive R/F/GRP models are reasonably close to what is delivered during the actual campaign, but I find that many digital stakeholders who believe that the R/F/GRP model sells digital short tend to make their arguments based on the notion of reach and frequency against demographics becoming an ongoing KPI. I haven't seen too much of that -- to the point where I think the role played by predictive R/F/GRP tools has more to do with the media mix than it has to do with day-to-day digital optimization.

Where Nielsen plays a role with its new measure is in the post-campaign launch phase. The role I see this playing is one of showing the advertiser what they're getting as their campaigns run, and in post-buy situations. I think it will be valuable insofar as showing advertisers what their combined reach really was in a post-campaign fashion. So while the new metrics might not help us from a predictive standpoint, client tests can reveal something that I think is very important that gets glossed over when we introduce random duplication into predictive models.

That's the notion of people you wouldn't otherwise be able to reach without adding a digital component to your campaign.

Anecdotally, adding entire media vehicles to the mix produces more reach for the overall campaign. But I don't think that advertisers have really begun to see the value digital advertising brings in terms of reaching what I've heard Adam Gerber refer to as "media potholes" -- the people you can't reach unless you use digital.

In this way, I'm hoping that what Nielsen is bringing to the table here can move us further along the path to reconciling predictive and actual models of exposure, as well as help bring the two roles of digital R/F/GRP closer together. Many advertisers have assumed random duplication all along the way, and I think they'll be pleasantly surprised by the hidden value of digital that will emerge once they see that it truly adds to exposure in the media mix.

Tom Hespos is the chairman and president of Underscore Marketing.

Follow him on Twitter  at @_MarketingLLC.

Tom Hespos is President of New York agency Underscore Marketing. He is a frequent contributor to industry trade publications and has been writing a regular column about online marketing and advertising since March of 1998. His clients include Wyeth...

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