Agencies and publishers: Nielsen's OCR 'not the messiah'

By Brendan Coyne | 22 November 2013

Nielsen's Online Campaign Ratings will help shift more dollars into digital but media agencies have suggested it's "not the messiah", while News Corp and Fairfax question whether third-party data can be more accurate than first-party data.

OCR launched in Australia in May this year. It uses Facebook data in a bid to provide better measurement of online campaigns – insight into who has seen the ads. It also puts online campaign measurement into the same terms as TV metrics, enabling advertisers to compare like with like across mediums. Data should also be available to advertisers the next day. Facebook has some 12 million accounts in Australia, more than half the population. As panels go, it's big.

Some publisher push-back was expected because there was a risk that the limitations of their data would be exposed when contrasted with a vast third-party source. But News Corp has turned the tables. Jason Barnes, digital commercial manager at News Corp, told a delegates at a conference hosted by in Sydney last week that Facebook's own data could be questionable.

He said that given global news companies with subscription models collected detailed first-party data "if OCR comes along and tells a different story, who are you going to believe and where is the accuracy of Facebook data going over the next five years?"

Patrick Darcy, director or programmatic trading at Mi9 expressed similar sentiment. "It's one tool and the start of something very important for industry... but we are not comfortable in using a panel when we have such rich first-party data."

Jessica White, data and platforms commercial manager at Fairfax , said OCR was a "step in the right direction ... but it is just two pieces of data: age and gender. In digital you can do so much more. There is a danger of just focusing on those metrics". First-party data, she said, meant Fairfax could for example target c-suite executives, whereas it was "very hard to get third-party data to verify that because it is [Fairfax's] unique data".

Media agencies and publishers alike thought OCR was a step in the right direction, but some suggested it was a blunt tool that required simplification. Ciaran Norris, digital director at Mindshare said OCR was "part of the road to success but not the messiah".

Its success would depend on how it was used and whether using it could be made simple and cost effective, he said. "If agencies use it to beat up publishers" or if "publishers use it to pump up prices" it would not be constructive, said Norris. "I would love to use it on everything that leaves the door... but it is still only a piece of the puzzle." He added that publishers needed "some leeway" in taking on the new tool because nothing could be "expected to work from day one".

Marketing directors were busy, he said, and any new metric system had to be made easy for them. "Clients are not screaming out for it. If you are a marketing director, media is a fraction of your day. You get beaten up by Coles and Woolies. The price of rice might change affecting your profits within your core cereal product. You might have a factory in the Philippines and we come up and [shout] OCR! So it needs to be simple and cost-effective."

Marc Lomas, managing director of Interpublic's online performance arm Cadreon, said OCR helped as a "stop gap" to move more dollars into digital. But he said it would be useful to "take out the delay in recovering the data to enable real-time optimisation... the time-lag is a bit of a killer".

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