Magazine article Variety

Measuring Up

Magazine article Variety

Measuring Up

Article excerpt

«Q&A»

Martin Sorrell, CEO of ad giant WPP, seeks 'a better mousetrap' to ensure that no viewing goes uncounted

DOES MARTIN SORRELL have the cure for what ails the U.S. media business?

Execs from Viacom's Philippe Dauman to NBCUniversal's Steve Burke have articulated the challenges of trying to monetize content when so many people watch shows in new-tech ways. They insist digital views for everything from Nickelodeon programs to "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" are going uncounted.

Sorrell's efforts are not to be dismissed. He is chief executive of the British advertising conglomerate WPP, which spreads more than $75 billion around the globe in advertising outlays and boasts close relationships with big-spending sponsors including Ford Motor, Unilever and American Express. Under Sorrell's direction, WPP has snatched up stakes in Rentrak, a company that measures TV viewing, as well as ComScore, one of the leading analyzers of online audience activity. With so much TV being watched on the go, Sorrell thinks a company that can quickly find ways to demonstrate consumer activity in those areas in a definitive way has a great opportunity ahead.

Variety caught up with Sorrell during a rare break in his busy travel schedule. The CEO spoke of his desire to build "a better mousetrap" for media measurement and the urgency for TV companies to think about more than just TV.

Your company last year invested in Rentrak and is moving toward buying a stake in ComScore. Why are advertisers are so hungry for new kinds of data?

The world has started migrating to other screens, whether they be tablets or smartphones. There clearly is a change in consumption.... In that environment, clients want to know whether they are getting the best out of their investment. The question is what is the best way to do it? What we are going to do is set up this standard - bring the metering and bring the sampling to cover those parts of the media which are not covered or under-covered, and come up with a better mousetrap.

Media consumption behavior is in such flux, but what sort of new status quo do you see emerging in the years to come? What will be the new norm for how advertisers determine what audience is out there?

We would like there to be an industry standard and we would like it to be our industry standard, measuring both offline and online, in the same way we measure TV audiences in 45 countries. A non-U.S. Nielsen, if you like. We have a partnership with Nielsen in one or two places, and in the same way they are regarded as a sort of industry standard for offline in the U.S., we want to make sure we have as good an offline standard as possible and also have an online standard that is acceptable to our clients, who want to measure the effectiveness of their return on investment, and see who can accumulate things more effectively.

In the U.S., the TV upfront is fast approaching and early signals suggest another slice of advertising is about to go to digital and social outlets. If that's the case, this would mark the fourth straight decline in ad commitments for U.S. broadcast and the second for U.S. cable. How do you see ad support for TV playing out over the longer term?

Until we have a sort of right road and right measurement, you can't answer the question. It's all very well to look at Nielsen data and say the real Nielsen data is what I want, but it doesn't measure outof-home. …

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