Nielsen: Top TV Shows Are False Idols, Web Builds Reach Better

Nielsen this morning released a white paper it claims establishes audience reach and effectiveness models for online advertising, including the fact that online media "delivers audiences more effectively than some popular TV shows." The white paper, "Reaching the Right Audiences Online: Early Findings from Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings," is a thinly veiled pitch for Nielsen's new Online Campaign Ratings service, which Nielsen is pushing hard to make the "currency" of the online advertising business. "Despite the considerable waste, the Web holds its own with TV," the paper notes, asserting, "For the first time, Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings provides the opportunity to compare delivery across the Web and television on the same metric."

The paper acknowledges it is "premature to deliver broad, generalized learnings" from the new data, but nonetheless goes on to assert that online media delivers audience reach more efficiently than television. Citing an analysis of online's ability to generate reach among a broad-based audience target (adults 18 to 54) and a narrower audience segment (women 18 to 34) vs. a top-rated show like Fox's "American Idol," the paper concludes the Web is significantly more efficient.

The analysis shows that comparable online campaigns generate 17 more reach points among adults 18 to 54 and 24 more reach points among women 18 to 34.

"The web does in fact deliver the audience more efficiently than a program like 'American Idol 'whose broad audience virtually guarantees delivery outside of the intended group," the paper concludes.

The study's findings likely will be met with controversy from Nielsen's TV-centric clients, though its online-centric customers will likely find it as powerful ammo in their fight to win advertising market share from television.

During a recent presentation to investors and Wall Street analysts, Nielsen executives said they are pushing hard to establish the Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings (NOCR) as the currency of the online ad business, and are working hand-in-hand with a select group of top advertisers and agencies to embed the service in their media planning and buying systems.

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