Panels are Dead, Long Live Panels!

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In recent years, as media became more digital, ad sales more programmatic, and more brands started selling directly to consumers via social platforms, a new breed of research and analytics companies arrived on the scene - each promising better, more precise audience data, promoting their scale and touting “cheaper” ways of gathering consumer data. And the first thing these companies and their proponents would tell you was how outdated panels are.

Panels? Could you be more old school? Why would you pull data from a small subset of people when you can track every site visit, every channel change, every stream and every purchase using directly observed, census level digital data. Real data. Plus, panels cost a ton to maintain, and never seem large enough, the thinking went. And who needs to worry about user consent, we have that buried deep in our T’s & C’s so if they use our free application, we can do whatever we want with their data...right?

Fast forward to 2020. The streaming wars have begun. Connected TV is growing exponentially. There’s more data, especially behind walled gardens, and more dollars than ever are flowing to digital channels. Most importantly, GDPR and CCPA have made it absolutely vital to track clear user consent with each and every data sale. This has also made tracking user *compensation* for data usage something that data companies must now evaluate.

It’s the perfect time for a panel rebirth. Take TVision as a prime example: a company providing differentiated attention metrics in the form of household panel data that is sourced in a clear and compliant manner.

For starters, any seasoned researcher will tell you, as much as you can pull raw data from a streaming platform, or ad server, you need to make sense of it in a way that applies to marketing. Panels are vital when it comes to figuring out who people are and aren’t. Yes, first party data is wonderful, but it’s still very difficult to scale when you’re trying to determine who is consuming what, and who is engaging with which ad or show or app across vast realms of the web and TV. And it turns out, advertisers, even the most sophisticated and data driven, still care about stuff like the key target demographics, and collective audience reach. They can’t get there without panels like the one that TVision has created.

From a compliance standpoint, TVision can track consent for every household in their panel and how much that household was compensated each month for being a member. This may be the best benchmark possible for ensuring that data is compliant and safe for a marketer to use.

Plus, modern panels are more sophisticated, less labor intensive and more scientific than you probably realize. Even as TVision has pioneered dialog around measuring attention and viewability with TV viewing, their methodology is clearly understandable precisely due to the sophistication of their measurement. The company’s advanced panel can pull data from smaller seed groups and project it in a logical manner to broader audiences - without having to maintain a vast user base, but while also constantly looking to ensure a fully representative sample. Additionally, this panel aims to provide added granularity and precision in their analytics due to the fact that they passively measure second by second viewing, person by person.

Beyond the research reality, what’s really helping resurrect the need for panels is the shifting climate in digital media. We’re all grappling with the cookie collapse. Privacy laws are shifting, as are consumer attitudes regarding tracking. Brands are going to have fewer opportunities to extract or borrow data from unknowing customers, and to make grand projections based on those interactions. Permission and consent are in. Which panels by nature excel at.

Indeed, even as conditions change, the needs of brands haven’t. They need to target people across devices. They need to reconcile their audience engagement and their spending across a multitude of walled gardens. They need an understanding of metrics beyond simply exposure such as attention and viewability. They need to see the full picture and panels are the best way to cut across these barriers.

TVision is a great example of a panel that can meet brands’ needs as they are able to determine whether or not viewers are in the room with the opportunity to view at the time that the advertisement is airing. They can also track second by second if viewers are looking at the screen in order to determine attention and co-viewing, elements that are critical to really determining the impact that an advertisement has.

Over time, we think the benefits of strong panels like the one that TVision has developed will only become more apparent. They promise full transparency and complete user consent. Even better for brands - they promise more power and more control. Ultimately panels help brands make smarter, more informed decisions - while still making the most of their own data. That’s something every marketer wants.

Neutronian is pleased that a high quality panel provider such as TVision has chosen to highlight their industry leading attention and viewability data methodology with our certification.

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