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How measurement will evolve in 2021

30-second summary:

  • The pandemic has significantly changed the way advertisers work. It is therefore more important than ever to prove the ROI and make every advertising dollar count
  • The inability to track reach and frequency is one of the biggest cross-platform ad measurement issues marketers face
  • As marketers enter the new year, metering solutions need to be in place that account for cross-channel, cook-free, private, and walled gardens
  • Early adopters of cross-channel metering, truly cook-free solutions, privacy and consumer-centric policies, and data collaboration get the insights they need for future success

Marketers have faced an incredible number of challenges over the past year. The demise of third-party cookies, the loss of device identifiers, and changing privacy regulations have forced the industry to develop new solutions for identity. With consumer behavior changing rapidly and market volatility expected to persist this year, it will be more important than ever to demonstrate ROI with accurate measurements. Half of US marketers say the inability to track reach and frequency is still one of the biggest problems with cross-channel ad measurement. Better measurement solutions are needed.

Advertisers need to take the time now to evaluate their measurement solutions to ensure that every dollar they spend has a purpose. Marketers should look for solutions that address measurement challenges and create a unified view of the customer journey. Only then can they really improve the customer experience by delivering personalized messages and offers based on lessons learned. In 2021, measurement solutions will continue to evolve and improve to accommodate cross-platform, cook-free, consumer transparency, and walled gardens.

The cross-platform measurement enables flexibility and control for TV and other media

Recent trends suggest that consumers are buying multiple streaming services and cutting the cable at an alarming rate. As consumer behavior and viewer fragmentation accelerate across a range of digital media and streaming platforms, it is important for advertisers to measure cross-platform reach and frequency in real time and adjust course quickly if necessary. This is hardly possible with conventional TV metrics.

To determine where and how the consumer can best be reached, measurement offerings need to capture cross-channel metrics and normalize different sets of data to better understand the actual viewer. For example, one spouse may be responsible for all streaming subscriptions in a household while another manages cable and internet. To further confuse the problem, their online and offline purchases can be equally mixed.

With more accurate cross-screen metrics and measurement tools, including impact and reach, advertisers can track spend against specific KPIs to determine the actual ROI within a specified audience. As advertisers and salespeople roll out new measurement solutions in 2021 and be more specific about these metrics, the industry will be forced to accept flexibility in areas that traditionally lack agility and require tight budget commitments.

A more accurate measurement provides advertisers with critical insights that require flexibility for optimization and better real-time control with TV and premium video. Measurement offers that capture metrics via OTT and linear and link the impact on actual results will take center stage in the new year as advertisers are forced to prove ROI and can no longer rely on traditional TV metrics.

The devaluation of third-party cookies acts as a catalyst for better measurement

Less than a year before Google pulled the plug on third-party cookies and the simultaneous restrictions on certain mobile identifiers such as IDFAs, the advertising ecosystem is responding with a number of its own identifiers. Even so, the industry has yet to set a standard for a universal way of measuring reach without cookies, creating confusion in the marketplace and increasing the need for secure, privacy-conscious and interoperable identity solutions that maintain neutrality.

Campaigns with personally identifiable identifiers based on authenticated user data perform better on key metrics such as return on ad spend, cost per view, and cost per mille. In fact, certain types of cook-free solutions make it easier to measure results and demonstrate ROI. Campaigns will be personalized and almost 100 percent addressable. This allows advertisers and publishers to uncover undervalued inventory and see an improvement in their overall performance.

The industry is working hard to build a better ecosystem – one with trust and transparency – that doesn’t rely on unstable identifiers like third-party cookies. A stronger, trusted ecosystem ensures advertisers can measure across all customer touchpoints long after the third-party cookie is gone. This helps ensure that the most relevant, tailored messages reach customers across all channels. This ultimately translates into increased brand loyalty which will help empower businesses and improve results for marketers and publishers in the post-cookie world.

Measurement evolves with privacy at its core

As privacy regulations evolve, our industry faces a complex challenge – restoring consumer confidence. There is a conscious effort and trend towards consumer transparency and that is not going to go away. In addition to complying with the law, advertisers are updating their policies to be transparent about how consumer information is used. We need to better explain that the data that individuals share is part of a mutually beneficial exchange of values ​​that is essential to developing products and services that better serve consumers.

When consumers engage across media – they sign up, sign up, subscribe – and identify themselves in different ways. This data can be used to build and scale the right audience and improve the measurement to better determine what tactics the needle is under on business results. Advertisers should only use measurement solutions that focus on privacy to ensure a seamless customer experience on individual terms.

An example of the direction of measurement is the integration of LiveRamp into Google’s Ads Data Hub. This approach enables first-party data to be linked to Google data in the ADH environment in a data protection-oriented manner. A person’s data cannot be viewed, edited, or manipulated directly in ADH, but actionable insights can be extracted.

Amazon sets standards when it comes to understanding and measuring the customer’s buying journey and then executing it based on this data. Marketers want to create this type of measurement engine without moving data or ensuring privacy. These form data partnerships to close the gaps in their line of sight and use data from outside their four walls to measure the customer journey along with all endpoints.

The industry will focus on collaborating data to improve measurement

Walled gardens provide a great example of how having access to data at any point in the customer journey enables measurement of the entire customer experience. Following this example, consumer brands will try to build a strong data foundation to get a unified view of the customer and then optimize the marketing touchpoints as part of the greater improvement in the customer experience. We see CPG brands analyze sales growth by comparing retail partner data to understand each customer’s holistic shopping journey.

As the Winterberry Group noted in its January 2021 Collaborative Data Solutions report, one of the most widely adopted areas today is insight and analysis. Data collaboration only becomes more important as marketers try to measure results and optimize budgets. With the right privacy-conscious structures, data science and analytics teams can work across data sets, speed up analysis and gain deeper insight than ever before.


After the year that we have had, the development of measurement is imminent. In what is likely another difficult financial year, demonstrating the profitability of advertising investments will be the driving force behind this advance towards more responsible metrics that are delivered faster.

Early adopters of cross-platform measurements, truly cook-free solutions, privacy and consumer-centric policies, and data collaboration provide customers today with the best possible experience and insights necessary for future success.

Matthew Emans is VP of Measurement Products for LiveRamp and Co-Founder / CTO of Data Plus Math, which LiveRamp acquired in 2019.

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