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HyphaMetrics CEO Joanna Drews on TV Measurement and the Oracle of Truth

By April 27, 2022May 26th, 2022No Comments

Joanna Drews, Cofounder and CEO HyphaMetrics, joins Cross Screen Media CEO Michael Beach to share her thoughts on using next-generation technologies to close the gap in cross-screen measurement and how zero-party data could re-shape the video ad landscape. Watch our latest Screen Wars Thought Leader Interview here and read the full transcript below!

Michael Beach: All right, Joanna. Thanks for joining us today.

JD: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

MB: Excellent. Why don’t you give us an update on how you got to where you are today?

JD: I had an interesting segue into measurement, specifically in the ad tech world. I started out doing more traditional branding, inner branding, to be more specific. Then, I made the jump over to agencies. And I became fascinated with data, how it is used, and how it is applied to all the various strategies. Not just media buying, but also how it informs customer journeys, segmentation, SEO, SEM, how websites are built, and how our experiences are informed from devices to platforms anywhere. 

I’ve been fixated on any touchpoint that a consumer has, and my career grew into that. I was lucky enough to be at GroupM for a few years, and after that, I tried a startup. After that experience, I was at Comscore and became fixated on technologies, data options, and the gaps and the problems that are existing in our world. Through that experience, I met my co-founder and CTO, who I call the engineer in the relationship. 

This is one of those annoying startup stories that started with a napkin and drawing out our idea of what could be. What if we started applying next-generation technologies that we experience in our everyday life as consumers, and started applying them into the measurement space? Specifically, machine learning and AI, but also cryptography and the management of data, and building things ourselves. So, fast-forward to today, we have an entire proprietary and patented measurement system, and we don’t license any technologies. Everything is built from scratch, and it’s all built with the intent to measure everything occurring down to the individual in terms of media exposure in the home.

MB: Give us some background on HyphaMetrics. What challenge are you solving? And what’s the top-line business model and go-to-market?

JD: HyphaMetrics is a Data as a Service company. We provide the industry with the only unified individual media metrics. It is panel-based, which allows us to receive permissions from the home, and allows us to measure everything within the home. A panel is a group of people that’s representative of a larger group of people. And we are the only company with a Chief Panel Officer on board. Our entire ethos is the convergence of next-generation technology and industry expected best practices in terms of research. So the data output is of the highest quality possible and meets the industry standards.

Our technology enables the measurement of the TV in an omnichannel fashion, and secondary devices, and all the way down to the individual, but it is the panel, and our panel methodology, that allows us to grow into a nationally reflective data set and to apply this data in various ways.

The output of that data is what we call “zero-party data.” We coined that term because it is the definitive measurement of a person’s exposure to media. Whether it’s advertising content or product placement on any screen, our technology and our methodology allows us to definitively say “this definitely occurred,” and we’ve coined it as zero-party data.

MB: Excellent. In this week’s newsletter, we wrote about the measurement space. And it’s always one of the posts with the most responses. And it has people arguing about panels vs. big data. And you always come back to, “What if the panel itself not being accurate is the problem today?” And, “What would a next-generation system look like from a digital-first perspective?” I think that’s what you’re looking at, right?

JD: Yes, exactly. Often, what is talked about is the size of a panel, but our approach is to measure absolutely everything within the home, which has never been done before. We are focused on leveraging those next-generation technologies in order to understand exactly what is occurring in a holistic fashion. We’re not taking various approaches to measurement and pulling that together. We know exactly what is occurring in someone’s home. And it’s our technology that enables that.

Can we avoid having the same ad run on the same show over and over again? Is there a way to eliminate buying ad inventory based on audience forecasts that we know are wrong?

JD: This morning, an article came out in Variety, where Marc Pritchard stated that there must be a better way. Questioning if there is not a way to buy in-place ads and synchronize them when people are actually watching, matching ad supply with viewing demand? Can we avoid having the same ad run on the same show over and over again? Is there a way to eliminate buying ad inventory based on audience forecasts that we know are wrong? Could we ever eliminate the need for audience guarantees, which are inherently inefficient? And that’s exactly what we are here to do.

We believe that our data set can solve all those problems because of the granularity that we provide. Speaking of audiences specifically, moving away from older demographic targets to how people actually behave, and what their interests are down to the individual, that’s what we’re here to solve for.

MB: What’s difficult about building a panel?

JD: There is a high entry barrier, in terms of hardware and software. Regarding software, specifically, a lot of the technologies used are very similar to one another, and historically, this has been a litigious space. But we have usurped that with our own technology, and we are very proud of the fact that we measure what hasn’t been measured accurately before, such as long-tail networks and Spanish language TV, the granularity of individuals, their exact demographic information, and their technographic information.

The biggest challenge that we didn’t expect was the depth and breadth of our system. We never do a matching back to a data set that is licensed, or even our own. We measure what is occurring on the glass layer of the TV and the secondary devices in our panel. And therefore, our data set grows with the growth of our data, and with the growth of our own panel.

People are behaving more dynamically than ever across their screens.

JD: So the largest challenge that we’ve faced is what I would call “anomalies in behavior.” People are behaving more dynamically than ever across their screens. For example, using Zoom on their TV to work from home. We didn’t account for that when we built our system.

There is also all the streaming activity occurring on the TV that you and I might think is commonplace, but we didn’t plan for, such as Pandora, Spotify, and other long-tail apps as well. I would call this an anomaly, because of the data sets that we are used to seeing. They’re not actually anomalies. This is how real humans are behaving, and that’s why we are here to catch that granularity in human behavior, to catch that differentiation across individuals, highlight it, and bring it forth to the industry.

MB: If I’m a customer of yours, what does a win look like? What’s the best opportunity from a next-gen panel like HyphaMetrics?

JD: We’re here to facilitate a common language through data across the ecosystem. Our data set serves as a match key across all of your various efforts. Many of our customers have multiple census data sets, or even other panel data that they have access to. But the technologies used in those data sets tend to have various gaps in them. We solve for that.

Going back to the concept of the match key, when you have all these data sets and your data aggregator, it is upon you to pull it together and to tell a holistic story. It’s nearly impossible to fill all those gaps without an oracle of truth, so to speak. Our data set is that oracle of truth. It is that match key. 

You can take our data set and then match it to the larger data sets, fill those gaps, and help make better strategic decisions. That’s what we’re here to do. The information they used to rely on, as decision-makers, becomes more opaque and stripped out. We’re here to reintroduce those data sets that they were so reliant on with the granularity that they expect.

MB: Sitting here, five years from now. What does the overall measurement world look like? And how many data sets am I dealing with? What’s my day-to-day?

JD: Well, the marketplace is very vocal in terms of measurement and what they want. It has become abundantly clear that they’re looking for consumer centricity, interoperability, and cross-device insights. And we check all of those boxes. In the past, there was a single black box. And what that black box produced was what everybody agreed to. And it worked, but the industry has been vocal in terms of saying that it is not working anymore.

What they’re asking for is transparency and interoperability across all these data sources and currency efforts. Since we’re privacy compliant, omnichannel, cross-device, and down to the individual, we see our cell as a transparent box. And our data is available to the entire marketplace, so they use it however they wish. 

Going back to the match key concept again, and facilitating interoperability, we empower all these new uses of data and the application of smarter strategies and more granular strategies in order to place ad dollars more efficiently and target the right audience. So I think there’s going to be more optionality over the next two, three, five years, and we’re very excited to be part of that.

MB: If you were running Nielsen and you could make one strategic decision to improve the company, what would that be?

Imagine a world where the currency provider, the brands, the agencies, and the networks are all speaking in an agreed-to language and can come together and feel good about the decisions that they're making.

JD: If I was Nielsen, I would become a customer of HyphaMetrics’ data. We’re not a currency. We’re not a rating. We’re Data as a Service. We are here to solve the problems that exist in the marketplace, and that have been voiced over the last 15 years. We’re at a point where the industry is screaming about it. We can’t open the trade press without reading about it, and we’re here to be part of that conversation. But we’re not here to be a currency. We’re here to empower the future state of trading, and to help solve problems across the entire ecosystem.

For example, we are the only company that’s able to measure video gaming in the same capacity that TV is measured in terms of consumption. We measure Spanish language TV, and long-tail networks. Our technology solves all the problems that are voiced on a daily basis. We’re here to serve as that common language and fill those gaps. 

By becoming a customer of ours, imagine a world where the currency provider, the brands, the agencies, and the networks are all speaking in an agreed-to language and can come together and feel good about the decisions that they’re making.

MB: Great answer. Are you raising additional capital? What has excited investors the most about HyphaMetrics?

JD: Absolutely. We’re a company at a nascent stage, and we’re high growth. We’ve proved ourselves out with our products thus far, our POC that’s being supported by the ecosystem. We will be doing a capital raise in the near future, and we do get a lot of interest from the financial community. They’re most excited about our clean technology and our clean business model. 

We’re not licensing any software or any hardware. We’re not using consumer-facing hardware that is not meant for measurement. There’s consistency across all of it. From the manufacturing of our devices to the access of our data through our API that our customers are using today. It’s all proprietary, and it’s all meant to measure individuals in an omnichannel and cross-device fashion.

That is what entices them at the highest level. From a tactical standpoint, what excites them are the problems that we’ve been talking about throughout this conversation. But once they look under the hood, they see that we’ve truly built this system entirely from scratch. Even our data management. Internally, we have a system called the Panel Administration System (PAS), and that’s where our panel team and our tech team come together. 

Our entire measurement is cloud-based. We never have to visit a home. We’re continuously updating the operating system in panelists’ homes, and it’s a seamless occurrence. And as that machine learning and measurement are occurring within the home, we see that in the Panel Administration System. The PAS is also where we manage households, and we see if a meter might become faulty, or if a household goes on vacation, and it hasn’t let us know. The panel and tech team working so hand-in-hand makes for a seamless measurement system, and that’s a differentiator of ours when you look at the measurement space in itself. And the entire effort is supported by our proprietary panel administration system. So, it being a clean business model not reliant on any other technologies or hardware and having a clean data output that truly solves problems across the entire ecosystem is what is most enticing.

MB: In the same vein, if you were starting another company in the ad tech and video space, what would you focus on?

JD: I’m so focused on Hypha, and every day we find new problems that we solve, so this is a really tough question for me. For example, one of the articles that came to my attention this week was CTV ad fraud. We see all the ad calls in the home, and then we can overlay that against people’s true exposure of CTV on the TV itself. So we solved that problem. So, as the data set grows, as we learn from its granularity, and as we hear from the marketplace, we’re continuously making those connection points. And I’m so focused on that thinking outside it is too hard for me. Sorry, Michael.

MB: That’s all right. That’s a good answer. I’ll ask you two questions we ask all of our guests. First, give me one prediction for a year from now that’s under the radar, nobody’s talking about.

JD: Due to the fact that the marketplace is more educated than ever on data quality and the differences of sources, and how to prepare for the cookie replacement, for example, there’s a lot of conversation around first-party data. I think a year from now, once the marketplace becomes accustomed to first-party data, they’re going to be talking zero-party data more and more. Because first-party data also has its gaps. It’s its own version of a walled garden. And until we find a way to crumble those walls across all the first-party data sources, the solution beyond that is zero-party data, or what we call panel data here at Hypha, that will truly serve as a solution for those efforts.

MB: What’s the best place for our audience to read about zero-party data and your offering?

JD: The trades have done a fantastic job educating the marketplace, especially in the last couple of years. There are a lot of words that used to be used in very broad strokes, and we, as an industry, have come together to hone in on exactly what some of these things mean. I rely on AdExchanger, Digiday, Ad Age, Variety, and media posts, the ones that I read every day. I think everyone is doing a fantastic job of honing in on the problems and talking about the solutions.

I also pay attention to macro trends, so that we don’t exist in a bubble. I often say that while working in media, it’s obviously a fantastic sector to be in, but we sometimes forget why it exists. And it exists to facilitate information across our society. So when I try to look at our impact at a macro level, I focus on The Economist, Seeking Alpha, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. And they’re all starting to cover what impact these problems are having on our greater society as a whole.

MB: I appreciate your time today, and I know our audience is going to love this conversation.

JD: Thank you so much. I really appreciate the time.

Joanna Drews is the Cofounder and CEO of HyphaMetrics, an independent quality data supplier offering an all-encompassing view of what the world is watching. Drews has spent over a decade in the media space, working across disciplines including marketing/branding, data analytics, media measurement and research products, and business development. She accumulated this experience through her time spent at Comscore, Axwave, GroupM, iCrossing, and Interbrand. Throughout her career, Drews witnessed the widespread frustration that arose out of the lack of true cross-platform media data and put herself at the forefront of finding a solution– which ultimately led to the creation of HyphaMetrics.

Drews received a B.A. from Temple University, where she majored in Advertising. In addition to her work with HyphaMetrics, she is the Measurement Chair for AdLedger and on the Client Advisory Board for Captify. Drews is always looking for a challenge and is constantly picking up new hobbies and skills– her current focus is learning to surf.

Cross Screen Media is a marketing analytics and software company empowering marketers to plan, activate, and measure Connected TV and audience-driven Linear TV advertising at the local level. Our closed-loop solutions help brands, agencies, and networks succeed in the Convergent TV space. For more information, visit CrossScreenMedia.com.

Michael Beach

Michael Beach

Michael Beach is the Chief Executive Officer of Cross Screen Media, a media analytics and software company that enables marketers to plan, activate, and measure CTV and linear TV at the local level. Michael is also the founder and editor of State of the Screens, a weekly newsletter focused on video advertising that is a must-read for thought leaders in the advertising industry. He has appeared in such publications as PBS Frontline, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Axios, CNBC and Bloomberg, and on NPR’s Planet Money podcast.