What does the future hold for audience data?

Emerging media leaders highlight five key measurement priorities, to ensure the continued relevance of audience data.
01 February 2022
world summit audience measurement

Former CEO – EMEA

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Audience data is very much a hot topic across the media industry right now. At this year’s World Audiences Summit, we spoke to a panel of emerging media leaders from the UK about how this data is being used by agencies and advertisers, and what they want now and in the future.

Reassuringly, their vision of future priorities was echoed by the wider base of opinions at the summit; current and emerging media leaders are closely aligned in their thinking. Some of the priorities highlighted also aligned with findings from our recent global advertiser study.

So, what are the key ‘must haves’? What are the priorities that those emerging leaders working directly with clients believe will ensure the continued relevance of audience data in the future?

1. Speed to activation is essential – but more important is trust

Our emerging leaders are excited by the proliferation of new and diverse data, but stress the importance of trust. They face the challenge of presenting new, lesser-known sources that agencies might not yet have confidence in:

‘The question that I get asked the most is: “Where are you getting this data from?” People are used to BARB for planning and trading – it’s so trusted and you know where the data is coming from – but now there are lots of different data sources. It’s amazing, but I have to spend quite a lot of time explaining where the data is coming from and that it is valid.’ - Charlotte Knope, Running Total Media

Our advertiser study confirms that trust is a priority, with 65% of global advertisers feeling that high quality data for media planning will become even more important in the coming years. This was a point amplified by Lucy Bristowe of Sky who stressed the importance of standardised and independent auditing of data from trusted contractors and suppliers. Agencies and clients need to be able to confirm that they are using a trusted data source.

2. Advertisers are hungry for data to drive real-time targeting

In our study, 59% of advertisers said that real-time delivery of data would become more important. Charlotte Ahern from UK broadcaster Channel 4 described how they now offering a portal so that clients can tailor campaigns – including the target audience – in real time, to ensure they are being as effective as possible. Elsewhere at the summit, we heard how Kantar in Brazil will become the first media currency in the world to have viewing data available in real time, as both overnight and consolidated ratings.

3. Embracing complexity to find and track what really matters

A common theme was the need to demonstrate a real and unique understanding of the market and how best to define and reach target audiences.

‘We’re having lots of new business conversations where these new data sets are really coming to life, because it becomes an integral part of how we can tell our story [and] because it’s a means of differentiation. New data sets available to us really become a fantastic tool in our armoury, telling a story that really speaks to that individual client.’ - Charlotte Knope, Running Total Media

In order to find those audience insights, it’s necessary to embrace complexity, and to have the tools to analyse large and diverse data sets.

‘That desire to drill down and find that little nugget that helps us prove or disprove a hypothesis, and make it simple for clients: that’s really where we get that competitive edge.’ - Jack Perlman, OMD

4. First-party data is great, but real understanding of context requires measurement across platforms

First-party data is going to prove ever more important to advertisers, particularly as the demise of the cookie means the likely end of online tracking. At our summit, senior leaders at L’Oreal and Manchester United both stressed the vital role that first-party data plays in their ability to speak to their user bases. Indeed, 60% of advertisers in our survey confirmed that insights from their own first-party data will become more important over the coming years.

However, there’s a desire to enhance that first-party data with data from other sources, to understand both competitor activity and context. On our emerging leaders panel, Jack Perlman of OMD highlighted the importance of BARB’s recent incorporation of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) and ad-based video-on-demand (AVOD) measurement alongside broadcast content:

‘For us, that audience is very, very hard to reach. It’s a light TV viewer audience, so for us to understand where they might be in commercial environments is really, really important. As is understanding how we control that reach and frequency across subscription VOD, linear TV, [broadcaster] VOD and Adsmart – it’s all coming together for us and that’s what our clients want to see. It’s what we want to see.’ - Jack Perlman, OMD

Our advertiser study emphasises this hunger for integrated insights. The majority of advertisers believe it’s hard to generate insights on competitor media activity, and that integrated insights across business, brand and consumer data are rare.

5. Understanding the consumer purchase journey and attributing outcomes

Attribution is another hot topic in the industry. Debate is raging about how best to measure ‘outcomes’, moving beyond simple exposure to understand the real impact of advertising. Our emerging media leaders had a keen understanding of how the consumer journey involves many media touchpoints, and isolating the contribution of relevant media at different stages in that journey is challenging.

‘We’re looking at new attribution models, because attribution of web traffic or purchase to the last advertising spot that went out we feel doesn't tell the whole picture. The journey from seeing an advert to purchase isn’t always linear.’ - Charlotte Ahern, Channel 4

In our advertiser study, 58% confirmed that defining the consumer journey is a priority over the next few years. As Karishka Das of P&G put it later at the event, the holy grail is ‘a level playing field that removes data asymmetries.’

Getting closer to that holy grail will involve ‘embracing complexity’. Kantar is working with our clients and partners to provide relevant and easily accessible data and insights that will allow the industry to meet the priorities that our emerging leaders identified.

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