NEW YORK: Brands should seek to balance cross-platform research with big data rather than simply shift their resources away from the former and towards the latter, according to a leading executive from ESPN.

Artie Bulgrin, ESPN's svp/global research and analytics, raised this idea at the Advertising Research Foundation's (ARF) Audience Measurement 2015 conference and explored a similar theme in a recent Warc webinar.

"The concern is that there's a bifurcation in the industry - a separation of interests: one path moving towards data and analytics, and one still focused on measurement," he said. (For more, including results from the organisation's own research, read Warc's exclusive report: ESPN spots disconnect between big data and market research.)

"Is that going to continue, or are we going to going to unify the two to accomplish what we need to do?"

Cross-platform measurement, he argued, had made significant progress in the last few years - not least thanks to offerings like the ESPN-led Project Blueprint - in helping brands acquire deeper audience understanding.

"We started to see shortly after that - later in 2013 and through 2014 - that attention shifted a bit away from cross-platform measurement, which was gaining momentum, into big data," said Bulgrin.

"It's not just a shift of intention; it's a shift in investment that concerns me as somebody who still believes that we need cross-platform measurement."

As an example, he suggested that the rise of programmatic, data-management platforms (DMPs) and services promising increasingly tight targeting has drawn attention away from cross-platform measurement.

"Everybody is building a DMP in this business," said Bulgrin, by way of example.

While not disputing the importance of big data, he recommended that it should be combined with cross-platform measurement, rather than replacing it in a zero-sum game.

That, in large part, is because cross-platform efforts can fulfil a distinctive purpose than big data, from analysing the mix of channels people use to drilling down into the time spent with various media.

Big data may also have some gaps - such as if a consumer has a set-top box or over the top service switched on but their television set switched off - which can be filled with more traditional techniques.

Data sourced from Warc