World Federation of Advertisers makes new push to fix media measurement

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) is making a concerted effort to tackle the basic problems of media measurement that have troubled marketers since the explosion of digital.

The Cross-Media Working Group is comprised of leadership from brands, associations, including the Association of Canadian Advertisers, measurement companies and key digital publishers and platforms.

Its task is to establish shared principles that will help marketers understand what exactly they are getting for their media spend across various media, markets, channels and platforms. The work entails wading deep into the weeds of media measurement, but the results could be felt across the entire marketing industry, with implications for where and how brands allocate their budgets.

“It’s really just basic reach and frequency. You’d think we’d have this done by now, but we don’t,” said the ACA’s Chris Williams, a member of the Working Group.

Resolving basic issues of media measurement is difficult because there are so many different stakeholders and markets, with a multitude of different practices, standards and even terminology.

“It’s kind of like herding cats,” said Williams. “You’ve got a lot of different players who are coming from local markets and they have different ways of doing things.” There are fundamental issues, like agreeing what an impression is, when an ad is seen and when it actually exists, says Williams. Agreeing on those basics lays a foundation for other issues like pricing, audience and more advanced targeting.

Overcoming those challenges will take what MasterCard’s senior VP of global media Ben Jankowski called “uncommon collaboration,” but that is what the WFA is working toward.

The Working Group is focused on examining best practices and figuring out how they can be adopted internationally to establish the kind of uniform metrics that lead to standardization—a first step toward enabling marketers to understand what $1 in TV spend delivers compared to $1 in online video.

Right now, because of differences in currencies and nomenclature, it’s apples and oranges. The Cross-Media Working Group’s goal is to make it apples to apples.

The Group met for two days in New York during Advertising Week, where it identified four key priorities for moving the process forward:

  • Privacy: Ensuring data is shared in a way that respects consumer privacy and adheres to regulations;
  • Measurement infrastructure or ‘pipework’: Cross-media measurement requires a complex infrastructure of components and data. The Working Group is figuring out how to best connect that infrastructure;
  • Metrics and data: Like-for-like comparisons require consistent definitions; there may be one definition or multiple definitions, but there has to be way to compare them. The group will identify the minimum datasets required to deliver this and how they flow through the above pipework.
  • Governance: Cross-media measurement requires clear governance to protect privacy, ensure objectivity and enable fair decision-making. The Group will look at how this should be governed and funded.

“Meaningful cross-audience measurement represents a step-change for marketers in understanding the impact of their marketing investment,” said Stephan Loerke, CEO, WFA, in a release announcing the new push to create cross-media measurement principles.

“But with great promise comes great complexity so there are many challenges to work through. Our first goal is to identify the global principles that can help accelerate the adoption of cross-media measurement, enabling more individual markets to adapt a common platform while also reflecting local market custom and practice.”


David Brown