Choosing Sides: VivaKi Backs comScore; ABC Throws In With Nielsen

In a battle to control the future of the ad industry’s currency, Nielsen and comScore each added to their sides this week, with comScore tilting more in Madison Avenue’s favor -- at least a big chunk of it. On Thursday, one of its biggest buyers of media, Publicis’ VivaKi, threw its hand in with comScore, giving it a multibillion-dollar vote of media-buying confidence. On Nielsen’s balance sheet, it got deeper into bed with ABC, which announced a deal to back the development of a new service that would extend Nielsen’s dominance into the mobile video ad business.
 
During its upfront presentation to the biggest TV ad spenders on Tuesday, ABC announced it was backing the development of a new Nielsen product that would report audiences for ads running in its mobile content. ABC declined to discuss technical details, but said it would be based on Nielsen’s Online Campaign Ratings system, which is in the battle with a comparable system by comScore that VivaKi endorsed.
 
Describing its deal as a “trial,” ABC said Nielsen’s product is “quickly emerging as the standard for online campaign measurement.”
 
“This trial with Nielsen is a significant next step in allowing us to help advertisers see the whole picture,” ABC President of Sales Geri Wang said in a statement announcing the deal on the eve of its upfront presentation.
 
Until VivaKi’s vote, much of the momentum had been in Nielsen’s favor, as it executed a well-planned strategy to extend its monopoly position as TV’s ad currency into online, and everything that comes from that, including mobile.
 
In an unprecedented move, Nielsen worked upfront in the design of its OCR service with the Media Rating Council, and received one of the fastest accreditations ever for a new ratings service by the industry watchdog.
 
It then went on to pre-sell OCR, effectively giving it away to the most important stakeholders of a new ad currency: advertisers. It invited the world’s biggest ad spenders to sample the service gratis. It’s unclear whether or how many marketers still pay nothing to Nielsen to access the service, but in recent earnings calls Nielsen executives downplayed the give-it-away strategy to marketers, and emphasized that OCR was becoming the ad industry’s online currency. In its most recent earnings call, Nielsen chief David Calhoun more or less backed off that claim, acknowledging that Nielsen’s OCR was not yet the market currency.
 
As of this week, it definitely is not for VivaKi and its clients, including big ones like Procter & Gamble. 
 
"comScore provides us and our clients with capability and flexibility for a future where integration from multiple data streams and media convergence driven by mobility and social come center stage,” VivaKi’s Starcom MediaVest and Zenith Optimedia units said in a joint statement explaining why they will now use comScore’s ratings as their “go to market” currency.
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