Earlier this year, ComScore vice president for Australia and New Zealand Lachlan Brahe took a road show across adland, meeting with agencies and publishers, in bid to announce the company’s presence in the local the market.
This trip came off the back of ComScore penning a partnership with Fresh Focus and appointing Michael Lams as its business development manager in New Zealand.
The official arrival of ComScore in a mature digital market like New Zealand has been somewhat overdue, in that the research company already employs over 1,200 employees across the world and has become one of the most prominent—and recognisable—providers of online research analytics.
“We’ve been trying to run it remotely, but the problem is there has been a bit of a disconnect,” says Brahe.
He says that decision to partner with Fresh Focus managing director Ryf Quail and to put boots on the ground in Auckland is well overdue.
“It’s high time that a credible alternative is available,” says Brahe.
Unlike many executives who stay under the PR safety net, Brahe and Quail don’t mince words and openly admit that they’re looking to take of a slice of the pie currently dominated by Nielsen.
"In the audience measurement space, you have the incumbent which is probably what we would call asleep at the wheel," says Quail. "I think most media and agencies feel they need to rely on them, because there’s nobody else."
And Brahe adds: “Nielsen are what they are, because they’ve been the only one here,” says Brahe. “And they’ve got the benefit of scale in looking after press measurement and TV measurement. You can respect them for having the early jump on all of that, but I don’t think I would be an unqualified outsider just making an opinion if I was to say they picked up digital measurement by default but they haven’t exactly innovated in the market or driven things forward too much.”
Nielsen is no stranger to international competition, having weathered the 2013 entry of SMI into the market without too much trouble (StopPress is awaiting a response from Nielsen regarding the arrival of ComScore into the market).
However, Brahe believes ComScore has a distinct advantage in that it specialises exclusively in digital measurement.
“It’s all we do,” he says.
“All we want to do is help people make the best of their digital investment, be it agency, publisher or advertiser.”
ComScore has already showcased its digital proficiency by providing data on the number of visitors to sites across devices.
What’s interesting about the data is that it includes in-app browsing—something that Nielsen doesn’t provide—and the results also feature a few surprises (for instance, Netflix places well below other video streaming sites on the lists). However, there also seem to be a few gaps in the research, with Facebook absent from the in-app browsing data.
Brahe says that because ComScore serves only as a provider of digital analytics, the accuracy of its information is integral to its credibility. And this isn’t always the case with publishers or media agencies, says Brahe.
“Publishers are less likely to talk about viewability, brand safety or ad fraud because it could cast dispersion on the quality of their inventory. Agencies often don’t want to talk about, because they’re not doing anything about it and don’t want to get caught out.”
Brahe argues that because ComScore’s entire business is based on accuracy, it’s in the company’s favour to report accurately on what is actually happening in the online advertising space.
And there is certainly truth to this claim, especially when viewed in light of the fact that ComScore was one of the first major companies to blow the whistle on the extent of ad fraud in 2013 when it reported that 46 percent of online ads were never seen by actual human beings.
Publishers and agencies are of course starting to take steps to ensure that their ads are seen by humans.
Recently, MediaWorks announced that it was working to ensure that its ads were 100 percent viewable and there has also been backlash to the IAB’s ludicrous definition of viewability, which requires only 50 percent of the pixels in an ad to be seen for it to be considered viewable.
“It’s really dumb to pay for a whole ad and then only have half of it ever seen,” says Brahe.
Quail concurs with these statements saying this standard could never be applied to any of the traditional channels.
“If you asked someone to make a TV ad, only the second half of which was going to be seen, they’d laugh at you,” says Quail.
And, according to Quail, what’s most concerting is that only 53 percent of ads served in the APAC region even meet this low standard.
While Quail commends publishers like MediaWorks for taking steps to rectify this, he says that viewability is only one part of the battle.
“It’s a really brave of a local media company to do this, but there’s more to it,” Quail says.
Brahe agrees, saying that viewability needs to considered alongside ad fraud, brand safety and targeting in the digital space.
“This is particularly important in the programmatic arena because you’re no longer buying context,” Brahe says. “You’re purely trying to buy an audience wherever they are. Without the benefit of knowing where your ads are going to run, you do need a trusted voice to say ‘This was an ad served to a human being, it had an opportunity to be seen and it was in an environment that was safe to your brand.’”
Brahe says the point of providing accurate information in each of these regards is not to take a shot at what publishers or agencies are doing, but rather to ensure the industry improves across the board.
“It’s not about identifying all the shit and making a great big list of where not to advertise,” says Brahe. “It’s ultimately about being able to provide a robust set of metrics to the market so we can enhance what we’re doing in digital.”