On-Screen Plugs Measured Differently

A recently posted  blog by John Eggerton describes a change in the Nielsen product placement measurement that creates an apparently dramatic drop in on-screen plugs on broadcast TV year-to-year.

According to the 2008 list, Eggerton says, the top broadcast show in plugs was The Biggest Loser, with a whopping 6,248; American Idol was second, with 4,636. (This is also the first year that Nielsen has included cable in that top 10 list, so there is no standard for comparison).

When Nielsen released its top 10 lists of "most popular trends" for 2009, on Dec. 11, one list that jumped out was top programs for "product placement activity," which means the number of on-screen appearances of or references to products. According to that list, the No. 1 show was NBC's Jay Leno Show, with 1,015 "occurrences." NBC's The Biggest Loser came in at No. 3 (second among broadcast shows), with 704, and Fox's American Idol was No. 4, with 553.

Nielsen says, "... for the purposes of the list, the company now counts all similar occurrences of a product in a program segment... the space between commercials... as a single occurrence. That makes reality shows look less plug-filled due to production techniques, at least by the occurrences measure. Nielsen also continues to measure duration, which would not be affected by the change.

David Kaplan, senior VP, research and product development, Nielsen, explained why a show like American Idol would have seen such a precipitous drop:

"Shows that have quick cuts and would pan away and come back, as opposed to having steady shots, like a reality show-where you might have a Coke bottle displayed and have a conversation taking place between the host of the show and the judges, where you have more cutaways and pans-vs. a sitcom, where you had one steady shot. They may have been on the screen for the same amount of time-the sitcom would show one occurrence and the reality show would show 20 occurrences."

Kaplan says the value of the placement to the advertiser of both would be the same, with the only difference being how the show is produced. He said that choice in tracking came after talking to clients, who he says are really most interested in whether or not Coke, say, has a presence in the show.

The change, according to Kaplan, in addition to client interviews, came from the merging of IAG and Nielsen. Nielsen has been using the higher number citing every occurrence, while IAG has been using the segment measure to define occurrence.

In addition, Nielsen releases other data publicly throughout the year on duration of placements, which captures the length of those single plugs in each segment.

Kaplan explains that "Metrics, like duration on screen, remain largely unchanged... 2008 vs. 2009 on that measure would look the same, or probably even higher. Advertisers don't necessarily care how many unique times the brand is exposed on the screen. It is more about, ‘I had a presence in the show; did my competitor have a presence in the show and how long was it on screen?'"

To review the Nielsen release, please visit here.




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