Podcast: Who Measures The Measurers?
Sometimes an old institution gains new relevance.
Take the Media Rating Council (MRC). The nonprofit was born out of the quiz show scandals of the late 1950s, when regulators, after recovering from the initial shock of learning TV quiz shows had been rigged, were chagrined to find audience sizes were also faked.
“Ratings were basically a black box. Nobody knew how ratings came about,” MRC CEO George Ivie says in this week’s episode of “AdExchanger Talks.” “Back in that time, there were companies making up audience numbers. It was a bunch of old guys sitting around the table saying, ‘Which shows do we like the best?’”
After the House conducted hearings, the MRC was founded as a self-regulatory mechanism to ensure accuracy and transparency in the measurement process. But 30 years later, around 1990, it seemed the MRC had outlived its usefulness. The television industry had consolidated to just a few networks, and Nielsen did a decent enough job of serving the measurement needs of sellers and buyers.
Then the internet came along.
“I came to MRC in January 2000,” Ivie recalls. “We had about 50 members at the time and we did less than 15 audits of products. Today we have 160 member organizations from all facets of the industry and we did more than 120 product audits last year. The industry is getting so complex, so fragmented, that people need the ability to understand research. They need transparency around it.”
The MRC has played a key role in developments such as the viewability trend and the industrywide push to audit Google, Facebook and other digital giants. In this episode, Ivie describes those audits, discloses which platforms are still refusing them and spells out the MRC’s next big challenge: validating cross-media measurement systems.