Ian DowdsIan Dowds CEO, UKOM

Last week the first set of fully UKOM endorsed Ipsos iris data was released to subscribers. We’re pleased, proud, excited, relieved. 

This point marks an ending and a beginning. A process lasting more than two years, taking in broad industry consultation and an open RFP process, has lead to the selection and development of this new measurement proposition. It is also the springboard into a new era for online audience measurement in the UK.

The message to UKOM from the industry consultation was loud and clear: robust cross-device and cross-platform audience measurement is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have for our industry. Agencies, publishers and advertisers recognised the ever-increasing complexity of that requirement. As a progressive organisation, UKOM was determined to select the proposition that best meets the need for accuracy along with the flexibility to deal with complexity.

The Ipsos iris single source, multi-device panel of at least 10,000 individuals, with a target of 25,000 total devices, was the bedrock of the UKOM selection.  The single source panel makes the Ipsos iris data more representative, less modelled and therefore more robust than alternative methodologies involving multiple panels.

A single source panel is interoperable with other data sets and will allow greater integration of UKOM endorsed data with a number of proprietary data sources.

Not only is the Ipsos iris panel demographically representative of the UK online population, the data can now also be reported by region (as per BARB TV regions) and also by ethnicity.

What UKOM provides however, as with other industry measurement bodies, is an independent and objective source that the entire industry has decided upon as its agreed truth.

For the first time there is access to some daily audience data available in Ipsos iris and that, along with the inclusion of more than 40 media consumption and lifestyle questions in the panel questionnaire allows richer, more granular, elements of audience categorization than previously available.

Data is not a zero-sum game and typically any company will use a range of sources, which leads to a great deal of noise around claims and counter-claims in the market to be the truth. The fact is that there is no absolute truth in audience measurement. What UKOM provides however, as with other industry measurement bodies, is an independent and objective source that the entire industry has decided upon as its agreed truth.

All subscribers to the UKOM Ipsos iris data should be prepared for a change from the audience numbers as produced by the previous supplier. Tempting as it may be to do so, the two data sets should not be compared. No part of the UKOM RFP required that the supplier of the new contract generate online audience data that was directly comparable to the previous data.

A new supplier, a first-for-UKOM single source panel, new tagging and new methodologies and modelling, along with an entirely different universe all mean that no consistent ‘exchange rate’ can be created to be applied at any level between the old and new data sets. Throw into the mix the organic changes in the online behaviour of the UK population, no doubt distorted significantly over the last COVID-effected fifteen months, and you will appreciate why one must not look to simply compare numbers from the previous supplier with the data generated by Ipsos iris. There are strong precedents for taking this approach when an industry currency makes a fundamental change.

The UKOM team’s excitement will only grow as the functionality of the interface and the range of reports available in the system grows over coming months.

We are clear, though, that that this is only the beginning. Between UKOM and Ipsos we are under no illusion that the job is complete. The functionality of the interface and the number and range of reports available in the system will only grow over the coming months

As more publishers tag their websites and apps so the data will grow richer and even more robust. As more platforms generate audiences for publishers’ distributed content so Ipsos will work with those platforms to include such data.

This process of delivering robust and independent online audience measurement never stops. New platforms, new devices and new content – audio and visual – will continue to appear and evolve. Measuring them will involve a process of endless refinement.

There are challenges in online measurement around third party cookies and newer identity solutions that can work within operating systems each seemingly in a constant state of flux – solutions that must not transgress ever-changing national and international guidelines and laws. 

We are excited by the opportunity to explore potential collaborations with other measurement organisations. Naturally, there will be sensitivities: commercial, technical, and political with a small ‘p’. But we already have one textbook example of collaboration: the UKOM data will continue to form the online element of PAMCo’s cross-platform audience measurement for published brands. This ongoing collaboration is evidence against those who may be sceptical of cross media measurement as just too complex for any industry level progress.

We look forward to the opportunity to embed UKOM endorsed data into other proprietary systems as a strong foundation of independence and objectivity.

Thanks to all who have represented their company and their peers on the UKOM Technical and Commercial Boards, companions on many long months of virtual meetings. Thanks to Ipsos and everyone from the sixty plus organisations who have contributed to multiple UKOM Ipsos iris work streams. I hope you don’t mind me saying: “we’ve only just begun”.

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