On the MIC: George Ivie talks measurement

The CEO and executive director of the Media Rating Council previews his IAB MIXX keynote, talking expanding definitions of TV, cross-media and the online digital f-word.

George Ivie, CEO and executive director of the Media Rating Council (MRC) is the keynote speaker at the IAB Canada 2014 Spring MIXX Conference, hoping to help cure media angst by sharing his thoughts on where the measurement industry is and where it’s going.

Ivie spoke with MiC to preview his talk and give his thoughts on the measurement industry, including getting better cross-media and mobile numbers, and the expanded description of what we mean when we talk about TV.

What can MIXX attendees expect from your talk?

I plan to discuss the recent evolutions in digital measurement the MRC has been working on which include: the completion of mobile web and in-application measurement guidelines, nearly complete viewable impression guidelines, a project in-process to develop digital GRP and cross-media GRP measurement guidelines and  a new project to set measurement guidelines for digital audio. I will also cover some thoughts on non-human traffic and the “F” word (I mean “fraud”) which is a hot topic for MRC and digital practitioners from all sides of the ecosystem.

I believe many in Canada have not heard much about the MRC so I want to talk a bit about who we are, and perhaps even touch on our growing international presence, including that we are doing some work in Canada. The MRC conducts over 60 digital product audits at the present time, so folks may want to understand the broad spectrum of our work in validating digital products. The organization also conducts a large volume of work (auditing, etc.) in TV, radio, print and OOH media so I’ll give a brief overview of some of the interesting stuff from other media.

What are the major goals of the Media Rating Council in 2014?

The MRC is a somewhat simple organization, we essentially do two things, the first is we set industry standards related to media audience measurement, and secondly we conduct audits to verify compliance with industry standards. As part of that overall mission, we also move forward priorities we believe will drive significant improvements in measurement, for example our current initiative to standardize and encourage the use of digital viewable impressions, or standardizing measurement in digital audio (where there’s a war going on between digital and terrestrial radio).

We believe 2014 will unfold as a year of tremendous change. In general the trends are towards greater granularity in measurement, faster speeds, more passive techniques, mobile and more personalized content consumption – and perhaps the most significant – cross-media measurement becoming a reality. MRC tries to keep up with all these changes, and where possible, lead some of these in a thoughtful manner. It’s tough.

At the same time we conduct audits. New products are approaching us for audit all the time and especially in digital our auditing practice has grown. In total we conducted 92 product audits in 2013 – we expect that to grow by as much as 20% in 2014. An interesting growth area for us is international, where we have several requests for audits outside of the US. Auditing is a great way we ensure quality and seek to improve quality in products.

Where do you see the media ratings landscape moving in the next year?

We see large growth in the areas of cross-media and mobile, with both evolving and improving measurement practices. TV, radio and print remain large and certainly are evolving, but much of the change is driven by digitalization, cross-media preparation and an increasingly mobile-focused consumer.

The real issue of our time is audience attribution. We can measure transactions well and efficiently, but assigning audience to these transactions is a tricky and difficult challenge. Audience attribution is ripe with issues – privacy, fraud prevention, accurate representation of measured populations and gaining public cooperation. Products continue to push the boundaries of practice in this area.

How has the landscape changed the most in the past 12 months?

We have been working on viewable impressions in the US, which represents a huge change. The marketplace has been preparing and we’re going to see a shift to viewable in 2014.

On top of this we’ve been seeing movements toward including more types of video into what is considered the television realm. More and more, the media consumption tool is becoming less important and we’re just trying to measure video or audio or static display. Nobody can stand up discrete panels for each type of device and survive financially.

Measurement products have continued to focus on making targeting more effective, such as the emergence of OCR (Nielsen) and vCE (comScore) products in the digital space.

Last, but perhaps most important, cross media has become a reality. Most of it needs improvement, but nonetheless it’s there and real. MRC’s increasing challenge in this area is to not throw out “the good” in favour of “the perfect,” which might not be achievable.