Julie Forey explains why the UK online audience measurement trade body adopted a single-source, multi-device panel to monitor digital content consumption.

In January 2020, online audience measurement trade body UK Online Measurement (UKOM) appointed Ipsos as the new supplier of UK industry standard data for digital content consumption.

During the industry consultation and tender process that preceded the appointment, no one could have predicted the year that would lead up to the launch of the new currency in early 2021 and the stark effects of the pandemic on online behaviour.

Usage of video conferencing and messaging services rocketed as more people were working from home and socialising virtually. Grocery and food delivery became increasingly popular, particularly among older audiences. Online shopping boomed in key lockdown categories like sport, staycations and gardening. People spent more time online streaming entertainment, reading the news, looking for health information, using education services and visiting government websites.

Just as the pandemic brought these major changes in online activity, so the need has become more pressing for an industry-governed, people-based measurement solution that offers timely and robust daily online audience data.

An explosion in first-party and publisher data may have dominated the digital landscape for real-time campaign optimisation, but data collected by independent third parties can play a vital role in understanding behaviour. It can help insight, marketing and planning teams make evidence-based decisions by providing data on their target audiences, what they are doing online and, increasingly relevant, how their behaviour is changing across devices and over time.

Awarding the contract to Ipsos ended UKOM’s long-standing partnership with the previous supplier, Comscore. The decision to develop ‘Ipsos iris’ – a yet-to-be-created, new product when existing global services were available – was significant. But UKOM wanted to ensure it was working towards a future-ready offering tailored to the needs of the evolving online UK market. From the outset the new system had at its heart for the first time a single-source, multi-device panel, delivering richer data in a new reporting tool.

Learnings for other markets

Since the UK awarded the contract, Ipsos has also been appointed by IAB Australia as the preferred supplier for digital audience data, replacing Nielsen from Q2 2022. The Australian Ipsos iris product is, of course, set to draw on the experience of the UK.

Now that UKOM is publishing daily data for subscribers other markets interested in the UK’s approach may be keen to learn that four factors contributed significantly to the decision to appoint Ipsos.

  1. Data integration is important to UKOM as its aim has always been to collaborate with industry currencies and initiatives to facilitate a viable cross-media, cross-platform, cross-device proposition in the UK.

The Ipsos hybrid methodology combines data from a high quality, mobile-first, single-source passive panel of 10,000 individuals and c.25,000 devices with census site-centric measurement. Designed with a straightforward, transparent methodology, Ipsos measures the audience rather than devices or browsers.

Single-source means the panellists install meters on all their devices, resulting in more accurate cross-device deduplication as the panel captures usage of PCs, tablets and smartphones. A single-source panel also enables the production of respondent-level data that can easily be integrated with other data sources and media currencies, for example PAMCo, where UKOM data provide the online element of the combined print and online reach for the published media JIC.

Experience in cross-media fusion was important in the decision because UKOM is keen that media-measurement doesn’t operate in silos given people’s multi-media consumption.

  1. Flexible, timely and granular data was a key goal for stakeholders. Previously, only monthly aggregated data was available, which was released over two weeks after the month end. Ipsos now produces top-line daily data, which is released 36 hours after day end. Full monthly aggregated weighted data can also be analysed by daypart, day, and week or for specific time periods.
  1. The usefulness of age and gender has been much discussed in targeting and understanding behaviour, but UKOM has worked hard to bring to the market a measurement solution that goes beyond standard demographics and offers a wider range of options for profiling and target analysis.

Ipsos iris offers media consumption and lifestyle statements in addition to extended demographics. Regional data is robust, covering ITV and GOR regions and will soon include cities and geodemographics. UKOM is also working with the industry to include ‘interest based’ audiences – ‘behavioural’ segments created from people’s actual consumption of online content. Given Ipsos iris reports on people’s usage across 297 content categories, the list of potential targets could be extensive.

  1. The partnership with Ipsos is a five-year contract, during which UKOM is keen to extend its coverage into new areas of measurement. The Ipsos iris methodology makes it very adaptable to future UK requirements. Discussions are already underway to include children aged under 15, whilst consumption of online content on smart televisions and digital audio are also areas of future interest.

The plethora of digital data available to marketers can be overwhelming. To understand the UK or any market, it is important to have nationally representative data which is not biased towards users of a particular service and provides a like-for-like comparison of audience metrics for advertisers.

Although great progress has been made in the last year, Ipsos iris is still in its infancy and product development is ongoing. However, UKOM believes users can be confident they are making planning decisions based on robust, credible data which has been collected with a privacy-compliant and future-ready methodology. We hope that every corner of the industry is ready to harness its potential.