For years, YouTube has been a standout from the Nielsen tracking in terms of ad performance, that is, until now. It seems that Google and Nielsen have come to some sort of agreement that will see the Nielsen tags implemented across YouTube, sometime in the first part of next year.

Until now, YouTube users have only ever had Google-based statistics and tracking on advertising views. By allowing Nielsen ad tracking in, Google is seemingly legitimizing its own statistics. After all, if there were massive discrepancies between what Nielsen finds and what Google has been reporting, it might look like they’ve been doing some dirty, underhanded business, and that’s the last thing that Google and YouTube want to seem like, right? AdWeek reported that Google told them it would work to implement Nielsen’s OCR, Online Campaign Ratings.

comScore Already Inside the Gates

Apparently, Google is already using comScore’s VCE – Validated Campaign Essentials – which the company was quick to point out to AdWeek. comScore, for their part in it all, stated they have been working with Google for some time and that it has been implemented on three times more ad campaigns than Nielsen’s OCR.

A spokesperson at Google was quoted as saying (in regards to Nielsen OCR):

While we continue to build measurement options powered by Google, we’re also partnering with industry leaders, such as Nielsen and comScore, to offer objective, credentialed, third-party measurement options. Nielsen’s OCR recently joined VCE as a certified measurement provider, and we’re working with both on roll-out plans after we do early testing.

Seems to me like that tidbit steals some of Nielsen’s thunder. Clearly comScore was in like Flynn first, and Nielsen is simply, late to the party. I can’t help but wonder if that’s all because of who uses which product. If say, 75% of major advertisers on YouTube already use VCE, then it would make sense that implementing Nielsen OCR would not have been such a top priority for Google and YouTube. Now that VCE has been in the works for some time, YouTube has decided to help out the rest of the advertisers. I just pulled 75% out of the air, there’s been no actual report of any number, but if comScore’s 3:1 ratio is to be believed, it could be something like that.

Nielsen OCR Data Expectations

Nielsen, meanwhile, is touting how great this is for them and their clients. It’s true, it is great for the clients who have probably been wanting it for some time. It’s also good for Nielsen as they’ve been trying to crack that nut for a long time one would imagine. I’m very curious as to the specifics of the deal because, as Google has said, they’re working on their own measurement product for video ads. Since they rule the kingdom, they would, theoretically, have unfettered access to every metric, every view, every ounce of information. But would they really cough all of that up for third-party tracking when they’ve been putting time, energy and money into their own? I’m skeptical.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, Nielsen expects online video ad view tracking along with some demographic info and exposure data (as in, how often an ad is seen by a viewer, etc). We all know Nielsen wants to take the traditional form of ad tracking, GRP, and turn it into iGRP and be the leader in that but I’ve always thought that there’s much more to it than simple Gross Rating Points. With the Internet there’s far more two-way traffic than good old TV and simply quantifying what percentage of the US population potentially saw an ad, seems like an archaic, out-dated metric. But that’s what Nielsen knows best, TV, so that’s how they want to world to view digital online video advertising, I’m assuming.

Of course, if you’re used to the old school GRP way of doing things as an ad buyer or marketer, then you want to have some metric that you can compare directly to your TV ad campaigns for a better idea of ROI, right? But wouldn’t you also want more information, with deeper tunneling and better granularity? I know I would!

All About the Benjamins?

This might simply be Google willing to admit that they’re losing potential ad revenue at YouTube because they haven’t allowed Nielsen OCR tags into the walled fortress that is YouTube. It could be them realizing that perhaps, it’s in their best interest to get it done and move on. Of course. moving on could actually be the plan for them. They might be so sly and savvy that they made Nielsen think this is exactly what they wanted, when in reality, it might be their worst nightmare. Or, I’m a total conspiracy theorist.

Tinfoil Hat Mode: ON

Let’s assemble the pieces. Google is working on a massive in-house video advertising metrics and analytic system, probably has been for years, specifically for YouTube. comScore has already been privy to the secret garden of YouTube video ad view tracking, for some indeterminate amount of time. Suddenly, Google realizes that someone is knocking at the gates and lifts the portcullis to find Nielsen standing there cold and wet.

It's a trap!

Google confers internally as to what they should do, perhaps seeks guidance from some of its counselors, like say, comScore? Then decide to let the poor cold, wet fellow in and offer him some hospitality.

In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar…It’s a TRAP! Or is it?

It may full well be that Google needs the reported “tens of millions of ad dollars” that have been reportedly left on some table somewhere in ad buy negotiations, simply because Google refused to allow Nielsen OCR tags on YouTube. It might also be that it’s just Google preparing to launch their own version, and in doing so, need their numbers verified by an outside source, to lend even more credibility to those same numbers. I mean, Google didn’t get where they are now by playing a short game, they’ve always been a long-term strategy type and this to me, seems like just that…playing the long game.