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Picture still fuzzy on how mobile fits into TV ad strategies

As multi-screen viewing of TV programming continues to grow, Nielsen has taken the first step in providing a clearer picture of viewing across devices. However, the deep dive needed for a truly holistic view so marketers can appropriately funnel ad spend into mobile is still missing.

Consumers are increasingly viewing TV content across a wide array of devices, including DVRs, Internet-connected TVs, tablets and smartphones. In order to ensure that its TV ratings are more accurate, Nielsen this week revealed how it will incorporate mobile viewing into TV ratings and dynamic digital ratings for the 2014-2015 TV season.

?I don?t? see the Nielsen announcement providing that holistic view,? said Dan Israel, Atlanta-based strategy lead for mobile practice at SapientNitro. ?It is providing here is what is being watched on the TV, here is what is being watched on the mobile device.

?But I don?t feel that you are getting the piece parts that help you develop that holistic view so that a brand can develop a story as to what that experience needs to look like through all the different mediums,? he said.

?It is hard to know what is the right type of ad to do in mobile for that particular video part that you are watching if you are not providing the beginning and the end, when people are starting and stopping.?

Digital ratings
Nielsen said this week that it will soon make a software developer kit available that will enable it to incorporate TV viewing taking place on digital devices into its traditional TV measurement for next year?s TV season.

Nielsen will use a unified coding approach for video that enables measurement to follow content across screens and ad models. Viewing will be credited to Nielsen TV ratings for TV programming made available for viewing on a digital device that meets the ad load and timeline requirements for TV ratings.

Content with dynamic ad insertion, elapsed crediting time or that originated from the Web will be included in Nielsen Digital ratings.

While this information is important for marketers by providing a better understanding of when and on what platforms specific programs are being viewed so they can allocate their ad spend appropriately.

However, if the view of what is happening on mobile is not deep enough, marketers will still face a challenge determining how much to spend in mobile and on what kind of experiences.

?For you to follow the flow, the ad unit length of time has to be the same on all the mediums,? Mr. Israel said. ?If that is the case, I don?t know if that is going to give an accurate portrayal of how people are viewing the content on mobile because ad units on mobile often times are going to be pre-rolls whereas if you are talking about TV viewing, you are going to have your 8 minutes every 30 minutes.

?If you are going to shift dollars, you want to know where people are picking up the experience on different mediums,? he said. ?Because that will dictate what is the right type of advertising to put in there.?

Removing barriers
With mobile?s role in viewing only expected to grow and the mobile viewing experience typically more engaged, advertisers are beginning to understand the potential in mobile but do not always know how to proceed.

While marketers may not get a full picture of mobile viewing with the Nielsen ratings, they will still get a more comprehensive view than is currently available.

With mobile representing a significant portion of digital impressions, such analysis could go a long way towards convincing advertisers to spend more in mobile.

?This will ease those investing deeply in broadcast to easily extend their buys into mobile,? said Megan McCurry, vice president and media director at DigitasLBi Chicago. ?Once you have a more unified view of the audience and can validate it, you can easily extend dollars into mobile.

?This takes away the barriers for heavy broadcast spenders, who may have been reticent to invest in mobile because they couldn't quantify it easily,? she said.

The social angle
With research indicating that viewers are starting to watch a show in one medium and continuing in another, marketers want to understand when and where viewers are picking up the experience so they can decide if it makes sense to create pre-roll content for mobile, for example.

The type of data that marketers are looking for would be when and where someone started watching a program, how many minutes they spent watching before stopping then when and where they picked up watching again.

This type of information would enable brands to create an advertising strategy so that they have ownership of the entire video watching experience.

Right now, viewers typically see different ads when watching a program on a TV set vs. a laptop vs. a mobile device.

The Nielsen strategy is also missing an opportunity by not incorporating the growing role that social media is playing in TV viewing.

For example, viewers who are most passionate about a program are often using a second screen such as a mobile device to comment on social media about that show or follow what others are saying.

?Right now you have to piece it together, stitch it together and the bang isn?t there for the buck to spend that much money trying to figure it out,? SapientNitro's Mr. Israel said. ?But if Nielsen is able to figure it out, to pull it all together ? and I think they are in the best postion to do it ? then I think it will be a powerful offering.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York