Mario Paic Marko Katavic

Global Head of Data Science Mario Paic and Lead Data Scientist Marko Katavic lead the data science expertise behind Ipsos iris. The pair are well matched; both are from Croatia, both caught the coding bug early. Mario supports the UK team on technical and methodological developments across data science, site-centric measurement and reporting. Marko has overall responsibility for developing the algorithms and modeling solutions to bring the databases used by the system together. UKOM had the chance to meet them recently.  

Q1. Where did you grow up and where were you educated?

Mario: Zagreb, Croatia. I studied economics at the University of Zagreb. I’ve been with Ipsos in different roles since 2003 - in Croatia, Sydney Australia and now London.

Marko: Zagreb too, but I studied sociology and information science. I started a computer science degree but switched as I felt that exploring social science would challenge me more at that moment. The place between data science and research is my natural home.

Q2. What's your earliest computing memory? 

Mario: Mid 1980s and my father showed up at home with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, just a keyboard with rubber keys, you plugged it into the TV, your cassette player and gamed.

Marko: My first memory is from elementary school age 12, I worked in QBasic to develop a Sudoku solving algorithm. My first computer was a Pentium 200, quite serious for that time. I don’t think the Sudoku solving algorithm is a necessary skill for developers now.

Q3. What audience measurement project do you wish you had worked on and why?

Mario: I can’t really think of a specific project but I would have liked to be in the industry when the first online measurement systems were deployed. Life was easier when PC was the only platform on which online content was consumed and there were less technical restrictions in place, no walled gardens. These days, audience measurement is more challenging, and requires us to constantly evolve our methods and deploy new technologies. This also makes it more exciting.

Marko: In historic terms, I’d like to have worked on the development of the first people-meters as this marked the first, and so far most important, paradigm shift in audience measurement methodology. A lot of the things we’re doing in Ipsos at the moment are attempts to recreate that moment for the digital era.

Q4. Who or what sparked your interest in audience measurement?

Mario: I stumbled upon it, I had no grand plan. But one thing led to another. My first proper job was interviewing for a company in Croatia that did TV audience measurement. I quite quickly moved on to do other jobs at the company: reporting, client service, running an AdEx service etc. That experience allowed me to learn about audience measurement from the ground up. Then, after a short stint at a start-up, I joined the largest local research company, that eventually became a part of Ipsos where I oversaw various syndicated products. At all three of those companies, I had the same boss, Ante Salinovic, who currently heads up audience measurement for Ipsos in the region. He was my early mentor.

Marko: Similar to Mario, I stumbled across audience measurement as I too was a 16-year-old telephone interviewer. My deep interest in the area came when Ipsos said we’re measuring newspapers, radio, TV and we’re leaders in the market, but we want your help in understanding the internet. I was offered the job to lead this project, to formulate a coherent approach to solving the deepest measurement problems.

Q5. What is something you've learned through your work that you lean on daily?

Mario: Audience measurement is such a complex, niche area but my job is all about people … people being exposed to the issues, wanting to learn, being curious, being precise in our judgment so that clients, agencies and publishers can be confident in their decisions on how to spend money. Having good people in the right places is everything.

Marko: What I lean on daily is the immutability of measurement data and the fact that you have to be absolutely certain that a change has happened. We have to have 17 different microscopes pointed at every change – what happened, why did that move, is that really a change? When you come from a research background, as I do, it is a novel concept that your research is being used as a currency. That makes me extra inquisitive, I question everything.

Q6. What's the achievement you’re most proud of so far in your work in audience measurement?

Mario: For me, it’s launching emma [Enhanced Media Metrics Australia] which we introduced in 2013 as Australia’s cross-platform audience measurement currency for the published media industry. It was a massive project, and a profound change for the market, and I spent three years working on it as the technical lead on the project. Like PAMCo in the UK, emma helped Australia move away from print numbers to an overall print brand conversation.

Marko: I’m proud of my work on BBC Compass. We worked with the largest broadcaster in the world to enhance the existing currency measurement tools in the UK. We didn’t use multiple meters, pagers or watches but our panellists’ own familiar devices. Now we have two years of data in place we have proved that single source measurement panels have a crucial role. We will be bringing this approach to Ipsos iris.  

Q7. What's the biggest myth in audience measurement?

Mario: People often forget that no matter how complex our methods are and how precise are we measuring, it’s the consensus of the whole market that gives numbers authority. Another more recent one is the notion that anything, any problem or a gap in the data can be fixed by modelling. True to some extent, but things can’t be modelled out of thin air.

Marko: That we can divine the absolute truth – we can only use the methods we have. All research has a margin of error.

Q8. What's more exciting to you, cross device or cross media measurement? 

Mario: People are talking a lot right now about cross device and cross platform, everyone is looking at measuring video across all screens. But cross media is the Holy Grail and BBC Compass is probably the most exciting example of that.

Marko: Cross media is potentially more difficult and therefore more exciting because you need to have specific measurement standards for different media and make them work towards the same goal. What Ipsos iris will benefit from is that cross device will be measured in a single source fashion, which will give it the edge.

Q9. What makes the Ipsos iris solution future proof?

Mario: It may seem counterintuitive, but Ipsos iris will continue to be useful in the future because we are putting people at the heart of our measurement. Ipsos iris will utilise a high-quality single source panel, possibly the largest anywhere, ready to measure cross media content - and advertising.

Marko: A good panel with research backing will make all the difference in the privacy age. If you have people signed up, you can always upgrade the panel with new measurement capabilities. Site centric data might give you speed, but you will always be playing catch-up with the industry.

Q10. What’s the trick in making something like Ipsos iris that is so inherently complex and specialist, simple and accessible to the layperson?

Mario: Marketing and design. You’re right that this is a complicated sector and we’re never going to get people to remember the intricacies of the solution. So we will be really clear that the key product benefits of Ipsos iris are the: single source panel, future ready design, and a local team who are keen to collaborate

Marko: First I’d say that Ipsos iris will not be a black box, we will be happy to share how we get to the final data. Feel free to take our offering to any technical person, to any stakeholder and validate what we’re doing. But the ‘trick’, if you want to use that word, is that it’s all about trust. That trust has multiple faces; Ipsos already has four running currencies that have been important for years. We’re taking that trust to create something new with UKOM. Although I can do my best to use layman’s language to bring to life this incredibly complex area, our credentials are all mandated on trust.

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