The Elephant In Nielsen's Client Meeting

Two weeks after Superstorm Sandy knocked much of the East Coast -- including many Nielsen households -- off the grid, Nielsen held a meeting with its East Coast clients to brief them on some important developments, but essentially ignored the elephant in the room: Sandy. In fact, there wasn’t even a room for the elephant. The meeting, conducted via a webinar, was thrown together when Nielsen’s original national client meeting was canceled on Oct. 31 due to the aftermath of Sandy, and a powerful Nor’easter.

What’s surprising is that the effect those natural disasters was having on national and local TV ratings wasn’t on the agenda, and wasn’t even discussed, except obliquely during the Q&A portion of the webinar.

What’s even more surprising is that, with the exception of a few news articles, there hasn’t been more discussion about the impact Sandy has had on the currency of the TV ratings business -- and the advertising deals that were based on them. I’m not sure why, except that, I imagine, many clients, agencies and even TV networks and stations are still so consumed by other matters -- personal or business-wise -- that they haven’t had time to focus on the business at hand.

But Nielsen had already announced that it was withholding all its survey data for the entire month of November for the New York DMA, the nation’s largest market, and that it was evaluating the impact on four other big East Coast markets -- Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore and Cleveland -- which together represent more than 13% of its entire national TV ratings sample.

On Thursday, Nielsen began informing clients  which days would also be excluded from Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore and Cleveland (see below), because they failed to meet its statistical guidelines for reporting ratings data. It also announced that it would hold another webinar Nov. 20 to brief clients on its Sandy “recovery” plans.

Since there has been hardly any public comment form Nielsen clients -- TV, advertiser, agency or otherwise -- I’d offer the comments field of this post to anyone who would like to say anything about it. And keep in mind that every Nielsen household knocked off Nielsen’s grid -- however long -- represenst 0.0005% of its 20,000 national household ratings sample.

 

Dates Excluded From Nielsen’s Local TV Ratings Due To Superstorm Sandy

 

 

Philadelphia

Boston

Baltimore

Cleveland

Oct. 29

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Oct. 30

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Oct. 31

Yes

No

No

No

Nov. 1

Yes

No

No

No

Nov. 2

Yes

No

No

No

 

Source: Nielsen

 

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2 comments about "The Elephant In Nielsen's Client Meeting".
  1. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC , November 19, 2012 at 1:43 a.m.
    “Nothing Strengthens Authority So Much As Silence.” Leonardo da Vinci
  2. Robert Rose from AIM Tell-A-Vision , November 20, 2012 at 1:30 p.m.
    Nielsen's history of covering up or ignoring flaws in their methodology is legend. This is a position they've been able to employ by historically being the only "legitimate" currency for TV ratings. Way back in 2006, I was part of a group that began an online awareness campaign initially entitled "Change The Sample" that took Nielsen to task for their shortcomings at monitoring U.S. Latino viewing. We had met with Nielsen many times prior to launching the campaign, giving them ample opportunity to address the issues, issues they themselves admitted to us in our meetings. Instead of solutions or constructive dialogue the response from Nielsen was to first ignore us, then to attack our intentions, our character and then after all of that didn't work, to meet with us yet again but this time with a promise to have the issue studied by an objective, independent party, if only we'd dial back our industry publicity campaign and give them some time. We did our part and 6 months later they did not fulfill theirs. Their promise to fund a study of the issue was conveniently forgotten and they even denied ever meeting with us to discuss. Now in 2012, sadly, Nielsen has progressed little, despite giant leaps in technology and huge changes in viewing patterns. But now there is one other very important change, a scrappy competitor with arguably superior methodology is now on the scene. Someone (Rentrak) it appears has indeed finally built a better mousetrap. The industry is taking notice. It's only a matter of time before Nielsen's stonewalling tactics and outdated methodology catch up to them.