Nielsen Plugs New Product, Ratings Service Will Track TV Product Plugs

In a development suggesting the burgeoning field of TV product placement may not be the flash in the pan that some think it is, Nielsen Media Research Monday unveiled plans to launch a new service to measure and track various forms of product placement in TV programming.

The service, aptly named the Product Placement Measurement Service, will launch in February and will offer advertisers, agencies and the media the ability to track their own product integration deals, as well as those of their competitors.

Initially, the service will monitor placements on programs aired by ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN and The WB, but the researcher ultimately plans to add cable networks down the road.

Details on the methodology were not provided when Nielsen made the announcement Monday during a regularly scheduled client meeting, but the announcement followed a morning-long presentation of findings from Nielsen's white paper on the drop in viewing among young men. During that presentation, Nielsen acknowledged that 40 percent to 45 percent of the drop in young male viewing was due to improvements Nielsen made in its research methods this season, while the balance was due to organic changes in TV viewing patterns.

Nielsen also offered details of another recently launched product, Nielsen Cinema, which tracks exposure to ads running in movie theaters.

Executives at the meeting said Nielsen provided scant information on how it would implement the new product placement service, but a Nielsen executive told MediaDailyNews that it would use people to monitor programming on the networks to detect audio and video product placements or mentions. These analysts will categorize placements based on their positioning - foreground or background, on-screen or audio, integrated into storyline, etc. - as well as their duration. Initially, Nielsen said it will not attempt to assign any values for various placements, though that is something it is considering doing once the service is established.

As such, Nielsen's plans differ from those of two other researchers, ITVX and Intermedia Advertising Group, both of whom track product placements and assign relative values for advertisers based on how, where and why their products show up.

"More or less, this is just what ran. They will report the level of product placement, whether it showed up in the background or the foreground, but not what the value of it is," noted Steve Sternberg, executive vice president-director of audience analysis at Magna Global USA.

"I think a lot of it's still being fleshed out," added Shari Anne Brill, vice president-director of programming at Carat . "It wasn't clear what their metrics are going to be, or how they are going to classify different forms of placement."

Nonetheless, Brill thought the service might be valuable from a competitive point of view.

"I think it is always important to know what your competition is doing. It's better than knowing it after the fact," she said.

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