Editor's Note: Nielsen executives took issue with this story's coverage and asserted that other advertisers are also paying for its Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings service, but declined to identify them. An addendum to this story has been published.
Nielsen has scored an important endorsement in its quest to make its new Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings (NOCR), the same kind of marketplace currency for the online advertising marketplace that its TV ratings are for television’s, signing Unilever to an agreement to use them for all its Internet advertising buys in the U.S.
The deal is significant, because while the Nielsen’s so-called NOCR ratings have been beta tested by a number of major marketers since before they were unveiled last spring, Unilever is their first paying customer, taking it from a research and development phase to a commercially deployed, syndicated service.
“In our business, we look for the best marketing return on investment -- and the best tools to gauge that,” Unilever Director of Media Investment and Partnerships Jennifer Gardner stated in the press release issued this morning.
“[NOCR] is an exciting resource that brings a more rigorous standard to our online campaigns and consistency in measurement strategy across our portfolio of brands,” she added, noting that Unilever wanted to be a first-mover in getting the industry to move behind the new Nielsen product: “We are excited to be at the forefront of the industry, taking full advantage of this new standard to help us more exactly understand and interact with our audiences online.”
NOCR may stand for campaign ratings, but Nielsen has been waging an aggressive campaign to establish them as the online industry’s ad currency even before they officially launched in August 2011. The NOCR ratings represent the first time Nielsen has worked so closely with its various stakeholders upfront, and before their launch to sell a product through. Among other things, it brought industry ratings watchdog the Media Rating Council in at the earliest stages of development to ensure that it received accreditation, which it did in record time, even as other Nielsen and comScore online audience measurement products have been mired in long auditing and accreditation processes.
Nielsen executives have also been very candid in a series of calls with investors in discussing their plans to work with, and co-opt big advertisers by giving them data for free as early beta testers. If other big marketers follow suit, the payoff could be a huge windfall for Nielsen, which has much of its underlying equity tied to the fact that it has been the de facto currency of the TV advertising business for so many years, and is now seeking to do the same with what many believe will become the next dominant ad medium.