Increased data privacy will affect accuracy in audience measurement

By Zion Rufus 

In an increasingly complicated marketplace which now faces growing scrutiny with regards to user privacy, the continuous accuracy and validity of data gathered from audience measurement companies has become a thing to doubt.

Content providers and advertisers rely on data and market measurement firms to gather insights on audiences for proper planning and evaluation which will guide their marketing strategies and decisions.

However, the past year has seen an increased focus on user privacy across all platforms, especially from customers, and regulatory bodies.

“The more people push for privacy, the darker third party data and measurement companies become, and the more difficult it is to stitch data to have unique perspective of profiles which would lead to instances like over estimation or inaccuracies in the profile information they have,” said Oti Ukubeyinje, Head of Product at Terragon. 

“The push for privacy means that marketers and advertisers need to become more intelligent and creative in how they go about collecting data and ensuring they collect them in the most consented and compliant ways from consumers,” he added.

Some of the biggest tech companies pushing for user privacy include Apple and Google. On its part, Apple, the iPhone maker has been introducing some industry-stirring privacy policies to the horror of digital marketers and advertisers who rely on third party data and cookies for their ad tracking and targeting; on the other, Google’s third-party-cookies phaseout hinders gathering and tracking of data.

Therefore, where advertisers will no longer be able to deliver personalized ads and track the effectiveness of their ad campaigns without users’ consent, data gathering companies might also be faced with the issue of inaccuracies in data gathered.


In an earlier submission, Oti had opined that the impact of the push for privacy will mean that marketing will become more expensive and more difficult for marketers and advertisers from an awareness and acquisition perspective “because as your access to data drops, your intelligence reduces and you are likely going to have to start expanding the number of people you reach again and this will cost more money.”

Continuing he said: “So what this means is that if not properly handled and creatively addressed, digital marketing will start to lose its effectiveness in a short time, businesses that don’t understand what exactly is happening will start to measure apples for apples and get convinced that traditional marketing after all is better than digital marketing in an ROI perspective and they may just start to move funds back into more traditional approaches like they were doing before prior to the emergence of data driven marketing.”

Recently, on the global level, data analytics firm, Nielsen found itself under intense heat after it revealed to TV networks that it had been undercounting their out-of-home audiences for national TV programming since September 2020.

For over five decades, big media companies have relied heavily on Nielsen’s audience measurement data.  Nielsen, a global leader in audience insight and market measurement, has long served as the industry standard for media advertising.

“Platforms like Nielsen will need to stitch data from multiple places to get a complete view of single individuals to get the right audience judgement and insights,” Oti advised. 

He explained: “Once they start getting blind from certain parts, it becomes difficult to stitch the various data sources that make for complete profile understanding and that leads to inaccuracies in the measurement side of the doings. So you start seeing instances of  duplication of audience and over estimation because they saw one individual as two people as a result of missing the data points that could have stitched them together. One person starts to look like two people or even more.” 

Blaming the error on a software issue, Nielsen  vowed to release accurate estimates. Meanwhile, the recently identified error had caused an understatement of reported out-of-home audiences affected live sporting events that tended to yield larger out-of-home audiences.

In 2021, the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) had formally requested the revocation of Nielsen’s Media Ratings Council accreditation for national TV service due to multiple, major and persistent violations.

According to VAB, the unprecedented scale of Nielsen’s 2021 undercounting and the depths of discovered defects in their core competency on TV measurement spurred great concern that Nielsen One was built atop a broken and defective measurement and currency foundation.

The Video Advertising Bureau, which has A+E Networks, Disney, Fox, NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS as members revealed that the Bureau was fiercely advocating for transparency and accuracy on behalf of its members, as well as marketers who relied upon fair and accurate reporting to base their buying strategies.

However, to deepen its position, the measurement firm announced it will reveal a major step toward Nielsen ONE, its single cross-platform measurement solution, showcasing its newest advancement, Nielsen ONE Alpha deduplicated ad measurement. Alpha is the first iteration of Nielsen ONE which will continue to evolve with new feature additions, enhancements, and model improvements leading up to the launch of Nielsen ONE in the fourth quarter of 2022.



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