1 + 1 = ?
After a qualitative study of its members and "listening to industry perspective," the ANA, in a report published February 12, expressed "no reason to oppose Nielsen's acquisition of Arbitron" although "there are some valid concerns." Their conclusion was that 1+1=3.
One of my peers opined: "They (ANA) really know virtually nothing about research." Another simply stated: “The ANA endorsement was bizarre.” Apparently the ANA did not read my Media Daily News piece from December 19, 2012, The Night(mare) Before Xmas, or Frank Maggio's follow-up on December 20, Give Me Control Of Your Currency, And I Care Not Who Makes The Laws, or Gale Metzger's perspective from October 5, 2009, Will the Industry Pay Twice?. Remember the erinMedia and SMART initiatives that were crushed?
The ANA's position is beyond puzzling. It is sadly either ill informed, naïve or perhaps both. It clearly does not reflect many of its member sentiments that are most likely from larger and more knowledgeable ANA member companies -- at least regarding Nielsen's U.S. media research appalling record and capabilities. The five verbatim statements from members concerning Nielsen quoted in the ANA report fundamentally contradict their "non-opposition" position and express well-established fears of this unregulated monopoly becoming even more "disadvantageous to the industry."
The ANA survey conclusion that "opinion was clearly split" when taken along with the verbatim statements (I guess there were many more and some possibly unprintable) is surely problematic, especially when also considering Nielsen's generally mixed record in earning (or worse, non-submission for) MRC accreditation for their various media ratings products. Even if 50% of ANA survey members had "no concerns," understanding the level of knowledge of Nielsen media research by these companies and the size of their TV and media budgets compared to the other "concerned" 50% could be tremendously revealing.
I would trust that the media ad agencies of every ANA member are in the process of providing their clients with a detailed history of dealing with unregulated media ratings monopolies in the U.S. This includes the continual and extremely costly, frustrating and sometimes brutal struggle they have faced on behalf of their media operations (which I experienced firsthand at Mediacom) to secure high-quality, leading-edge media ratings based on innovative technologies at costs equitable to the ratings services provided via JICs (Joint Industry Committees) in the rest of the world.
It is more than disappointing that we have been deafened by the silence of the 4As on protecting their agency members and their esteemed clients regarding this threatening takeover.
The ANA's conclusion regarding the proposed Nielsen takeover of Arbitron was that 1+1=3. It was based on specious arguments for the future of cross-media measurement and ignored the horizontal anti-competitive dimensions of the measurement technologies that Nielsen would acquire.
I totally agree that cross-media measurement is a most important consideration in today’s multi-screen, highly fragmented media market. However, the ANA could not have got it more wrong. The evidence unequivocally produces the real takeover equation:
*1+1=<2 + >$
P.S. "JICs are highly unlikely to violate U.S. anti-trust laws" as consistently claimed by Nielsen, explained a noted antitrust expert. And, as we all are aware in the U.S. media industry, JICs already exist here!
*For those of you who don't understand this new math, one plus one equals something less than two, but much higher costs for research clients.