September 30, 2023

Digital Marketing Education

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YouTube data and partner sites need more scrutiny, MRC says

Reaching out to critic

The MRC also has talked recently with a frequent critic of the group’s work and of digital industry ad verification broadly, Augustine Fou, who heads FouAnalytics and believes other measurement and fraud detection firms miss most of the problems in digital media.

Fou has been running his own test of the Adalytics TrueView work and so far found it valid. He said Google measurement partners DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science aren’t really in a position to track where and how YouTube buys get executed across GVP sites because they’re simply doing calculations on data provided by YouTube via its Ads Data Hub clean room. Those verification players don’t tag YouTube ads, because YouTube doesn’t allow such tags, he said.

FouAnalytics uses JavaScript tags to track where and how ads run on the open web, though it, too, can’t place those tags in YouTube inventory. While he’s offered to let the MRC use FouAnalytics tags for free as part of its audits, the MRC has not yet agreed to do so, a spokesman said.

YouTube’s latest first-party foray

YouTube’s latest foray into self-measurement, its co-viewing data, also has elicited skepticism.

The exact role and method of YouTube’s survey data in the process isn’t fully clear, but Dave Morgan, CEO of cross-channel TV advertising platform Simulmedia, said survey data for audience measurement has a long history of being “a bad idea” since what people say about their viewing often differs from what they actually do. The history of big digital platforms grading their own homework with first-party data is equally troublesome, he said.

“I’m a huge fan of YouTube,” Morgan said. “I’m very much in favor of YouTube not being de-categorized from TV just because they have a lot of short-form stuff that some people may not call premium. But what I know from the past 15 years is that when large digital platforms have chosen to do things on their own in opaque black boxes, they have tended to do things that are good for them. And when they’re not accurate, for some reason, the error is always good for them.”

For that reason, he said, MRC audits of Google’s first-party data are crucial, and third-party involvement would be better.

Should YouTube’s data shape Nielsen’s?

Some people familiar with the matter said Nielsen and YouTube first-party co-viewing data may not be that far apart, because Nielsen already considers YouTube first-party data in calibrating its own measurement. Nielsen has declined to comment on exactly how it measures Nielsen co-viewing but indicated it doesn’t use YouTube’s measurement as its own.

A Google executive pointed out that there’s currently no accredited metric in the marketplace for CTV co-viewing and that third-party firms determine their own approach based on their own panels and proprietary models.

But the MRC’s Ivie believes Nielsen does and should use YouTube’s first-party data to compare with and calibrate its own measurement.

“It’s my understanding that they do use some YouTube experience data” to model their own co-viewing estimates, Ivie said. “We would make them do that. If Nielsen or VideoAmp or any one of these services came to us and said they’ve designed a co-viewing estimate to apply to YouTube but didn’t use the YouTube data, we would say that’s a bunch of hogwash. You have to train the YouTube model using YouTube’s data, because the facts and circumstances of how people view YouTube may be different from Hulu, Peacock or Amazon.”

Even so, he still wants to audit how YouTube gathers, analyzes and reports its own data in the first place.


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