ISBA pushes ahead with Origin project despite hesitancy from TV broadcasters

Erik Von Weber / Getty Images
Erik Von Weber / Getty Images

Digital platforms including Google and Facebook have agreed to independent measurement of their campaigns.

ISBA has committed to testing a proof-of-concept version of its new UK cross-media measurement system over the summer, despite hesitancy from the big three commercial TV broadcasters, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. 

All of the major digital platforms, including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Snap and TikTok, are involved in the project, dubbed Origin.

The newspaper industry’s digital advertising sales joint venture, The Ozone Project, is also part of the plans.

Some of the biggest members of UK advertisers' trade body ISBA are backing Origin.

They include BT, MoneySuperMarket, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Sainsbury’s Argos, Tesco, Unilever, Barclays, Birds Eye, Camelot, Centrica, Confused.com, Diageo, Direct Line, Dreams, GSK, Lloyds, L'Oréal, Mars, NatWest and Specsavers.

Among the agency holding companies, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe and WPP's Group M have agreed to take part.

The Origin team has started to build a prototype and is aiming to have a beta version of the product by the end of the summer that advertisers will (ultimately) be able to use to plan, track and evaluate campaigns.

Peter Duffy, chief executive of MoneySuperMarket and president of ISBA, said: “From an advertiser's perspective, being able to do cross-media measurement is essential to understand the efficiency and the effectiveness of the spend you are putting into campaigns.

“You don't get that today. You have to piece that together through individual methodologies that don't always talk to each other in a way that they should do. And, as a consequence, it is just more difficult than it should be.

“So, considering how much money is spent in this industry. I think it's incumbent on us to make sure that we work together to ensure we measure the return on that expenditure in the most effective way.”

Richard Halton, the former chief executive of the digital TV joint venture YouView, is leading the project. 

Origin is part of a global initiative, led by the World Federation of Advertisers, in part prompted by a 2017 speech by Marc Pritchard, the chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble, in which he called for the industry to come together to tackle media transparency.

Google and Facebook worked with the WFA to develop an initial framework and technical proposal for the global efforts and have agreed to allow a portion of the advertising they carry to be independently tracked in a way that protects users' privacy.

A national model will be built from that sample to estimate the reach of campaigns. 

Unlike other UK media, the digital platforms do not currently submit to independent verification of the ads they carry.

For other media channels – including TV – the Origin team hopes to use data from their respective joint industry committees (JICs) to power the cross-media platform. 

Halton said: “The way to think about it is you've got all of these different [JIC] bodies today, measuring each media, so Barb [for TV], Rajar [for radio], PAMCo [for news and magazine titles], JICMail [for direct mail], Route [for outdoor], etc. So, think of them as like the columns of the temple.

“Origin sits across the top and it takes data from existing sources, and from the digital platforms, and it combines their data. And it then creates a view for marketers at a campaign level across platforms.”

ITV, Channel 4 and Sky are due to meet the Origin team and ISBA members to discuss the project but are yet to sign up.

ISBA will go ahead with a proof-of-concept version of the system using Barb data even if the TV companies hold out. However, it would prefer to work in partnership with them.

Sources said one of the concerns of the TV companies is that Origin will equate a digital view – 50% of an ad for two seconds, according to Media Ratings Council standards – with the complete viewing of a 30-second TV ad, as measured by Barb. 

Spokespeople for ITV and Sky declined to comment. Channel 4 did not respond to a request for comment.

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