10/08/2012 12:41 pm ET Updated Dec 08, 2012

Innovating to Fix Advertising's Inadequate Measurement Methodologies

You'd be hard-pressed not to hear 'multiplatform' mentioned on panel discussions or woven into numerous presentations at Advertising Week 2012. So how exactly can media measurement keep up with the proliferation of multi-screen viewing?

It's no secret that millions, if not billions, of the $70 billion juggernaut that is the annual TV advertising spend in the U.S. is being inadequately accounted for due to inefficiencies in the accepted methods of measurement. That number is astounding. Go ahead, ask any major brand if they know exactly how many people they are reaching with a particular multi-platform ad campaign or if they have a metric that gauges the effectiveness of this content. Do they know the real ROI on their ad spend? Unlikely. Car Company X doesn't know how many people watched their latest million dollar ad campaign on their iPads, or how many households viewed the premiere of the latest 30-second TV spot (cheers to old faithful) and then visited a specialty website set up to complement the campaign because the methods of measuring content on screens outside of the living room -- mobile phones, tablets and laptop computers -- are woefully ineffective.

Today's advertising measurement currency hasn't caught up to the latest mobile technology that billions of humans are embracing like never before. There are simply millions and millions of pieces of smart creative out there that no one can account for because innovation in measurement isn't being adopted by the masses as it should. The best brands can do is guess, provide a ballpark amount and try not to lose too much sleep over the fact they are likely burning a significant amount of money sending their ads out into the ether.

Even more bad news: it's not going to get any easier. Look at the trends -- Apple sold out of the iPhone5 in the blink of an eye, Barnes & Noble is adding video streaming and download elements to their Nook tablets and not a day goes by when you don't see more and more people flinging, slinging or interacting with TV shows and other forms of video on a device other than their living room TV. Never have we seen a time when multi-screen viewing, and with that, multi-tasking, has played a more critical role in how we consume content. Five years ago, sure, maybe someone would be watching American Idol live at 8 p.m. while also checking email on their laptop. Today, multiply that multi-tasking tenfold and you've got a sea of remotes and gadgets that let you watch content when you want it, how you want it and on whatever screen you want it.

It sort of feels like a scene from Catch Me If You Can where those in the research and measurement space are always just one step behind where the content is appearing, unable to articulate the true effectiveness of their campaign in today's fragmentation nation. But this isn't a movie. Justifying ad dollars spent to a CEO without a way to provide a crystal clear picture of the results is not a fun conversation for any CMO, and they are reaching a breaking point.

Now, before we all go sprinting down Madison Avenue declaring the advertising industry is destined to implode, there is a glimmer of hope. Advertisers, brands and networks are beginning to come together, to discuss, brainstorm and uncover innovative measurement methods that can help solve for the cross-platform conundrum. Many of these companies are working with The Coalition of Innovative Media Measurement on a number of exciting initiatives with great potential to transform the way audiences are measured. Change will take time, and there is no silver bullet, but the more organizations that are willing to put in the sweat equity to advocate for new methodologies, those that are unwilling to sit back and accept the broken measurement space as it is today, the more likely we are to measure content at the efficient levels it deserves.