A small media research company called Integrated Media Measurement is trying to bridge that research gap with a new technology that measures consumers’ exposure to the audio in ads on television, radio, computers, mobile phones, DVDs and inside a movie theatre — using a consumer’s cellphone.
The Internet’s ability to produce evidence on the effectiveness of ads — such as how many people viewed an ad and whether or not they clicked on it — has led to something of an industry obsession with new forms of measurement. The financial crisis promises to make marketers even more reluctant to risk money on ads, especially if they can’t keep score on how effective the spots are. Meanwhile, media fragmentation continues, as big-tent events like the Olympic Games and the Super Bowl are consumed in more and different ways.
“People don’t know how to measure the multimedia world we live in, so any piece of the puzzle is helpful,” says Brad Bortner, principal analyst at Forrester Research.
IMMI embeds its software into the cellphones of the company’s 4,900 panelists. The software picks up audio from an ad or a TV show and converts it into its own digital code that is then uploaded into an IMMI database, which includes codes for media content such as TV shows, commercials, movies and songs.
To me, though, the creepy thing isn’t the ad implications, but the indiscriminate nature of the harvesting of the audio:
IMMI’s database then figures out what the cellphone was exposed to by matching the code. Cellphone conversations and background noise are filtered out by the software, IMMI says, since there is no “match” in the IMMI database.
Right. But the capability exists in this to potentially evesdrop on a whole new level of conversations, which, given the disturbing pattern of information gathering shown by our NSA, makes me more than a little uncomfortable.