The Year of Mobile…Measurement

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence has gotten an early start thinking about plans and priorities for 2013. Our most recent mobile board of directors meeting last week in San Francisco included some brainstorming about big issues in Q4 2012 and into the new year.

There is still a lot to do across the board to help mobile live up to its potential as a medium for advertising and marketing. But one set of topics on the list does seem to increasingly be the priority for our members, and therefore us as well. At the risk of being premature, I will tip the IAB’s hand and say that for us, 2013 will be the year of mobile measurement.

In the world of media, when we talk about “measurement” we really mean three different, but often overlapping things:

  • Planning. The metrics that help an advertiser decide where to place their ads to best reach an intended audience.
  • Currency. The metrics that determine how much the advertiser actually writes the check for.
  • Effectiveness. The metrics that prove whether an ad campaign had its intended impact on consumers’ psyches or purchasing behaviors.

In the traditional media world, the planning and currency metrics are typically the same: for example, Nielsen ratings play both roles for television. In the digital world, the three kinds of metrics have generally come from distinct sources, and interaction (also known as “engagement”) metrics are an increasingly important type of effectiveness measure. All three types of metrics exist for mobile, but mobile buyers and sellers need to improve, harmonize, and potentially standardize all of them.

Planning. Mobile audience metrics exist, but right now it’s hard to develop a detailed picture of what the mobile audience is doing across apps, between apps and the mobile web, and most importantly between mobile and computers. Understanding the audience’s size, its demographics, and behaviors is key for both media companies and marketers alike. On this front, the IAB is launching a new working group focused on mobile audience measurement, which will discuss where we are at now and how we can move the industry ahead.

Currency. The IAB, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), and the Media Rating Council (MRC) are putting the finishing touches on stronger guidelines for mobile web ad measurement, as well as new guidelines for mobile in-app ad measurement. These will be out for public comment shortly. As ad servers get aligned with and audited against these guidelines, transparency and reliability will improve.

Effectiveness. The IAB plans to establish clear definitions and best practices around interaction metrics. As people tap on, expand, shake, spin, or otherwise do things with an ad creative, advertisers need confidence that those actions are intentional and actual. For campaigns running across multiple mobile sites or apps, this work will help ensure that the resulting metrics are consistent and comparable.

In addition to these mobile-specific endeavors, the IAB has several broad initiatives underway that will improve the state of mobile measurement. For example, the IAB’s joint effort with the 4A’s and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS), directly impacts how we standardize mobile currency and other metrics. A new project, a joint effort between the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence and IAB Ad Technology Council, is seeking to understand and define the future of the cookie. And the IAB Data Council and public policy team are continuing efforts around data collection, usage, and consumer awareness and control. These will be fundamental to making sure that the whole digital industry continues to have the ability to plan, execute, and analyze successful advertising campaigns.

Good media measurement should be like the air: life-sustaining, omnipresent, and something you don’t have to think about too much – just inhale and it’s there. In the early days of mobile, the air is still a little thin. Declaring 2013 the year of mobile measurement will focus the IAB’s and the industry’s attention on ways that we can give mobile media a more breathable atmosphere for marketing and advertising.

Mobile Measurement image on home page via Shutterstock.

This column was originally published on Oct. 26, 2012.

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