Unstoppable, a motion picture by Tony Scott starring Denzel Washington, was released two weeks ago by 20th Century Fox. I was struck by how much the plot resembled what was going on in the world today, from never-ending political confrontations to military battles to what often seems to be unpredictable media research information that is constantly being corrected due to machine and/or human error.
For those of you who have not seen the motion picture, the plot deals with two railroad employees, (i.e., locomotive operators), who find themselves in the position of trying to stop a runaway freight train that is filled with explosive materials before it derails in a highly populated area. As the title suggests, the train became “unstoppable” as a result of negligent actions on the part of a third employee who, as the film informs the audience at the end, has moved on to a more educationally-appropriate position in the fast food industry.
The corollary for us in the ad media world is often unstable or suspect media data that has the potential of derailing client communication plans. Witness the recent Nielsen Online software snafu that negatively impacted the counting of web session page views from uniform resource locaters (URLs) that exceeded 2,000 characters. On encountering longer URLs, the software crashed, resulting in a large volume of uncounted page views. This bug went undetected for several weeks before corrections were made and Nielsen informed its clients. Thus, Internet media plans that were constructed based on Nielsen Online data during this period will likely have to be revised as elements of the base data have been rendered unusable.
In designing its TargetLab™ CRM planning product, Merkle uses as its foundation, its National Consumer Database of over 275 million U.S. adults. A virtual census of the American adult population, the NCD contains a wealth of data on most if not all aspects of U.S. consumer and media behavior from various product verticals to program viewing, radio listening, publication reading and website visitation metrics. Use of the NCD virtual census helps mitigate against missing data resulting from machine error and other biases inherent in traditional survey-only measures.
Hundreds of socio-economic variables currently exist on the Merkle National Consumer Database. A significant number of these are scored and appended both to marketers’ customer target set records and to media subscriber files. Given Merkle's high name and address match-back rate, advertisers using TargetLab™ can rest assured that the data on which their media communication plans are based are as reliable and complete as they can be. This assurance will only increase in importance as media properties continue to proliferate.
For example, just last week a contingent of 12 major television station groups (a.k.a., the Mobile Content Venture group) announced that it expected to be able to deliver video to smartphones, iPads and other mobile devices in approximately 40% of U.S. television markets by December of 2011. The market list includes all of the top 10 DMAs as well of several more in the top 30. Citing a recent study which forecasts that over 30 million mobile digital TV devices will have been deployed by 2014, station execs in these markets are expecting that mobile TV content will end up becoming the proverbial “killer application,” delivering high revenue streams for stations that have struggled financially over the past three recession years.
Nevertheless, despite the success or failure of these proliferating media Touchpoints, one thing is for certain—actionable and stable forms of media measurement will continue to be necessary in order to monetize future media businesses. So, as the holiday season approaches, let’s plan to put the unstoppable train in reverse and commit to stabilizing today’s and tomorrow’s media measurement tools as we enter 2011!
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