One of the biggest perceived setbacks for the digital domain is the lack of an industry currency and attempts to create one have not necessarily been successful in the past, given the nature of the medium. This is especially true of Asia. So, when comScore won the mandate from Malaysian Digital Association (MDA) to create the official currency for digital media in the market, all heads turned towards comScore to gauge how it would deliver on the promise despite the domain expertise it brings to the equation.

As is known, in the majority of markets digital is still not achieving its fair share of advertising expenditure in comparison to the time spent because of lack of reliable and comparative data for trading with other media. This is because digital is still a relatively new medium and unlike TV, print and radio, there are no established currencies such as TV Ratings, Radio Ratings and Readership figures. “That does not mean traditional audience measurement systems are perfect but they do provide a basic trading unit for benchmarking; and by establishing a currency, digital can join the party. Digital audience measurement, far from perfect in its continuous state of beta, also has the potential to lead audience measurement with its technology to track larger panel sizes,” said Kerry Jane Brown, Vice President – South East Asia at comScore Inc, in a conversation with DMA.

In markets such as the UK, where a digital currency has been established, the success is evident in the expenditure figures. comScore has played a key role in developing the currency. In the UK, comScore is the supplier of internet measurement by United Kingdom Online Measurement (UKOM). UKOM has been instrumental in making the UK the most advanced digital advertising market in terms of spend whereby internet ad spends accounts for 36 per cent where TV is 27 per cent according to ZenithOptimedia’s Advertising Expenditure Forecast April 2013. To put this into context in US internet spends accounts for 19 per cent and TV is 39 per cent.

Apart from UK, comScore has been selected the official measurement currency also for Spain and the Netherlands. In effect, the company brings the necessary wherewithal required to create a currency for digital.

Challenges of an Asia market
Many markets across APAC have their own Industry Associations that get together to determine their needs such as IMAPP in the Philippines, IAB in Singapore, DATT in Thailand but very few actually go through the process of endorsing a preferred supplier. Brown informed that when the MDA took the step to create an official currency last week, it was following markets such as Australia and New Zealand.

Kerry J Brown, comScore

comScore will employ its proprietary Unified Digital Measurement methodology to ensure that the currency in Malaysia will deliver on industry expectations. “Given the complex and confusing nature of digital, we also need to ensure that campaign verification is clean. We need standards for viewability, audience impression reporting and cross electronic media GRPs/ TRPs. The US are leading the way here with their Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) initiative led by the IAB, ANA and 4A’s and comScore is at the forefront of a cross-industry coalition committed to developing brand-building digital metrics and cross-platform measurement solutions,” informed Brown.

For comScore, these steps will help it to achieve the objectives set out in creating an industry currency. But the digital scenario in some markets is still complicated. Can other markets in Asia follow Malaysia’s example? “The more complicated it is, the more it needs to be simplified by putting in place a common currency enabling benchmarking. We’re not talking about creating advanced metrics of engagement; we are talking basic media metrics. Let’s not try making digital media more complicated than it needs to be, which can confuse marketers,” Brown replied.

Advantage to smaller budget players
Advertisers who have the budgets are already using comScore in one way or another – directly or through their agencies. According to Brown, establishing a currency will help those with smaller budgets understand and take advantage of the media better. She elaborated, “This is one of the main reasons why the MDA is choosing a currency – to help the wider industry in Malaysia grow.”

Results from the MDA initiative will happen almost immediately. comScore will begin to work with the MDA on regular monthly releases of data that will give the market a better idea of audience consumption. Some of the aspects of the currency, such as how it would gauge digital consumption across platforms, are still being finalised.

Brown concluded, “Cross platform reporting is dependent on industry developments such as enumeration and extent of tagging, it can’t be predicted how long it takes for it to reach a minimum level that allows quality reporting. We are still working with the MDA on finalising the details around the granularity and frequency of the data releases. We will be working to have some monthly releases, a ‘Future in Focus’ report twice a year and other ad hoc studies. We have also received a lot of interest from Malaysian companies that want to understand the digital space better.”