How Bravery and Teamwork Across Media Will Usher In a New Age of Advertising

Challenging cross-industry pivots into accountability and collaboration crucial for future success

Across the media industry, people will need to work with one another to see growth and transformation. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Megan Clarken

I love the media industry. We have the ability to shape the world. We raise awareness. We create connections among people from across the world. We create joy. But it’s no secret that our industry is facing unprecedented challenges.

People are making their voices heard, driving a cultural shift unlike anything we’ve seen before. Claims of so-called fake news have created mistrust even among venerable institutions. Reports of sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination in the entertainment and advertising and marketing worlds have raised legitimate concerns about management practices and policies. Apprehension over privacy on social media platforms has focused a harsh light on advertising practices in an increasingly selective and contextual consumer environment.

The diverse voices behind these cultural changes are requiring the media industry to look carefully at whose voices we listen to and communicate with—particularly through ad campaigns. Yet the business challenges created as the industry shifts have become the focus for many. In the world of advertising, we hear voice after voice admiring the problems of comparability between digital and traditional business models, admiring the problem of competition, admiring the problem of the consumer advertising appetite and the fight for attention.

What we don’t hear enough is the acknowledgment of the outstanding hard work that exists behind the scenes to do something about these things and evoke evolution. Trust me—the body of work is immense and real progress is being made.

The industry is working to address the growing cultural challenges and do something about them. The TimesUp movement is responding with force to the discrimination and sexual abuse issues unfolding inside our industry. News organizations are doing some of their best work ever in reporting the news and uncovering scandal and prejudice. Networks, studios and individuals are holding themselves and everyone else accountable for personal actions. Social media companies are owning up to past shortcomings and taking bold steps to improve practices.

It’s essential that we work as a team to keep this fabric of media tight and strong. If a single thread becomes loose, it can compromise the entire tapestry.

There is also much being done to transform the way media and advertising work. The examples of the industry’s collaboration can be seen in the Media Rating Council’s work on viewability, dealing with different opinions of what viewability should be. It can be seen in the consortium of leading television publishers that have banded together to standardize the selling of audience segments in order to deliver cross-publisher targeting and independent posting for advanced audiences. We see it from our clients—both media buyers and sellers—who are working with us to take concrete steps forward to evolve the currency that our industry transacts on to more accurately reflect the world we share.

It’s not necessarily intuitive to see the role that a measurement company plays in this cultural conversation. But at its core, audience measurement is about reflecting the way real people live their lives. It’s a way to understand who they are, the stories they watch and listen to and what resonates with them. What provokes consumers also provokes what we do—not just at Nielsen, but across this industry. The media industry accounts for more than $100 billion in advertising dollars each year and has the power to shape our views in ways that last way beyond the initial experience.

Each stakeholder across the media landscape has a role to play to help keep our industry vibrant. Broadcasters, networks, advertisers, agencies, actors, data providers—we are the threads that create the delicate fabric of our industry. To truly evolve our industry, stakeholders across media need to work together.

It’s essential that we work as a team to keep this fabric of media tight and strong. If a single thread becomes loose, it can compromise the entire tapestry. And without the media industry, the world would be a less integrated, less informed and less connected place. But keeping the integrity of the stitching takes real courage.

The goal of audience measurement is to provide a foundation of truth. That truth brings uniformity to the fabric through the knowledge we share with the players we serve. It does so by bringing reality to both the buyers and sellers of content and advertising, providing assurance that those transactions can be made from a basis of trust.

This is our role as part of the media industry team to keep the fabric of our ecosystem tight. No loose ends, no shredding threads—that takes teamwork. The stakes are high but the rewards, not just for the industry but for the value they bring to the world, are priceless.

@Nielsen Megan Clarken is president of Nielsen.