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Will IMRB's WAM become the currency of digital?

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Will IMRB's WAM become the currency of digital?

Does the Internet need a common currency like television ratings or print circulation figures? Many believe that one of the reasons why advertising on the Internet is not picking up is because of the lack of third party data. The IMRB is one of those that feel that the lack of proper data on the Internet has long proved to be a block.

The company has recently announced the WAM ratings measure, which they believe will improve media planning and spending on the digital medium, as advertisers will be able to use a simple metric as a common currency for measuring the activity and effectiveness of advertising on the Internet.

The WAM metric, like TAM and RAM, will be based on a panel using a metering device that is custom built for India. The goal is to be able to provide demographic data along with metrics, and also analyse where and how people are accessing the Internet.

According to an IMRB survey, Internet usage in India has seen exponential growth, from 25,000 users in 1998 to around 50 million in 2010.

Thomas Puliyel, President, IMRB International said, “We can now say that we are truly in the Age of the Internet. With WAM, we can fully realise the potential of the Internet as an advertising and marketing medium. We will be able to measure the effectiveness of the medium in terms of reach and frequency, just like any other medium.”

Research Will Aid Planning
Vikram Sakhuja, CEO - South Asia at GroupM, also believes that there is need for an initiative on this front, which can help grow marketing on digital. He said, “We welcome this initiative. It is great to see solid market research fundamentals being used along with digital technology to do web measurement.”

Others, however, were more cautious about the measure.

Nitin Mathur, Director – Marketing, Yahoo, said, “I think this is a positive step, but there is more needed. Something like this might make media buying easier, but there is already a huge amount of data available about the Internet. We can already tell you how many people come to a site, what they click on, where they go after the site, and we can do this using a number of different techniques to ensure accuracy. What is really needed is a way to integrate digital media planning into media planning at large.”

He further said, “We need to plan for digital as part of the overall planning. A buyer needs to be able to look at his campaign targets and see what works best, which could be TV or print or digital, depending on the needs of the campaign. There’s no one right answer and using all the measures available with the Internet can help with this planning.”

Online Already Measured
According to Sandeep Amar, Head of Marketing And Audience,, “In Internet, since campaign delivery is directly through ad-server and 60 per cent of the advertising is on search and performance platforms (which do not use audience measurement), audience measurement has its limited but important application. The methodology and technology is the key for Internet audience measurement, wherein conventional research firms (with monopolistic attitude from other mediums) have not done well. Also, Internet audience measurement in mature markets has 3-4 systems, for example, in the US, there are comScore, Nielson, Compete, Quantcast and Hitwise.”

On the other hand, Vivek Bhargava, CEO, Communicate2, felt that such data was completely irrelevant for the Internet. He added, “More than 50 per cent of advertising online is on search, where the user intent is clear and the numbers are clear. If 50,000 people want to search for a particular brand of car, they are probably looking to buy it. Why do I need to try and extrapolate meaning when the user is already volunteering information? There are metrics for everything on the Internet, and the sample is the total user base. Instead of demographics, we are able to track behaviour, and using cookies, tags and IPs we can follow a user effectively but non-intrusively. And is the data you need to market an apparel brand and the data you need to market a financial service the same? That’s why using a variety of metrics on the Internet is very important.”

While these are valid points, the use of a measure like WAM confers third party credibility and the research and analysis offered by the company could easily help influence media spending. Overall, integrating digital into media planning needs to be a priority, for both brands and digital agencies, along with the publishers, but is a panel solution like WAM, or Alexa rankings, the most effective way to do so? As the Alexa example has shown, accuracy is limited only to the most popular websites, and the lower in the order you go, the less reliable such data becomes.

Overall, there are clearly shortcomings that need to be addressed, but the legitimacy of an agency like IMRB will enable digital agencies to get their voice heard at the very least.


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