STB Data Helps Obama, Gives Rentrak Reason For Champagne

How valuable is set-top-box (STB) data? It looks to have played a significant role in reelecting President Obama, according to The Washington Post.

The paper reported last week that the Obama campaign developed a tool tabbed “the optimizer,” which helped it avoid waste by better zeroing in on target audiences. STB data from Rentrak and an Ohio cable system offered second-by-second data that could be matched with other data sources to find undecided voters or Obama supporters, who may not be motivated to go to the polls, the Post reported.

So the campaign found sources such as The Food Network and Hallmark Channel in the cable world and used daytime shows on broadcast outlets to reach those in a gettable-and-needed category.

The campaign apparently went pretty deep into the cable universe to find opportunities. (No doubt it helped that it had a fortune to spend so it could afford some mistakes.)

“They bought a lot of networks that we would consider second or third tier,” NCC Media executive Tim Kay told the Post.



An ecstatic Rentrak emailed a copy of the Post article out last week, and clients -- current and prospective -- can expect to hear a lot about it as the measurement company looks to continue its impressive growth. The Obama campaign is being touted for its innovation and if Rentrak played a role, that’s pretty good material for marketing oneself.

The Post reported that the Obama campaign paid Rentrak at least $359,000 for its data. It’s possible that the publicity boost Rentrak has -- and will receive -- from the Post article will be worth even more. And the article didn’t just offer a plug for Rentrak, but executives had more reason to down champagne as it took a shot at competitor Nielsen.

“Using set-top boxes allowed for much more data and also higher accuracy,” the Post wrote. “Nielsen Media Research ratings, which are more commonly used, are based on surveys that are still done with a written diary in some markets.”

If Nielsen were a sports team, its coach would post the quote in the locker room to inspire the troops.       

3 comments about "STB Data Helps Obama, Gives Rentrak Reason For Champagne".
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  1. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, November 19, 2012 at 10:31 p.m.

    What nonsense! How many logical fallacies can one reporter and one research company make? The answer: FAR TOO MANY! I carry a brief for no research company or news source, only for research quality and journalistic integrity (if not intelligence). Goetzl argues that the Obama campaign used Rentrak data. Obama won the election. Therefore, the Rentrak methodology is a winner. Then, Rentrak defends its nonrepresentative sampling methods by quoting the Post, as if it were the POQ. Give me -- and every other reader -- a break. I have seen and heard better at amateur night. New Age journalists and New Age research companies ought to adhere to the highest professional standards, not the lowest common promotional denominator - hysteria.

  2. Bruce Goerlich from Rentrak, November 20, 2012 at 12:55 p.m.

    There are several facts that my friend Nick may not be fully aware of. It is the Obama campaign, not Rentrak, that has gone public with the success the re-election campaign had utilizing millions of return path TVs. The campaign (in their words) was able to achieve a 10 to 20% efficiency in their buys. In addition, numerous press articles, while not calling out Rentrak, have pointed out the diversity and spread of the networks the president’s campaign bought. Nick, you may recall the IRI single source work of a decade or so ago which showed the highest ROI media campaigns were those that spread out the weight, to reach more people. Obama’s media people, utilizing Rentrak data, did just that, buying a broad scope of networks. In terms of the success and efficiency of Obama’s media buy, Rentrak was the “Intel inside”. That is a fact, not hysteria.

    Second, Rentrak does employ a sophisticated projection system, starting with weighting at the zip code level. We are representative, having homes in virtually every residential zip code. Our TVs come from multiple sources. We are in the process of seeking MRC accreditation. We are solid, we are serious.

    Finally, I think Nick you are missing the excitement that “big data” is bringing to marketing. In the digital arena, in direct marketing and now in TV, marketers (and politicians), are now able to go to very granular and to have very stable levels of analysis in order to hone in on their desired targets. It’s not hysteria, it’s happiness!

  3. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, November 20, 2012 at 3:50 p.m.

    Mr. Goerlich refers to me as his friend. That's great! I like good friends and publicly and proudly wish my friend Bruce a Happy Thanksgiving.
    As for his suggestion that I am missing the "excitement" of 'big data' ... Well, I like many other professionals, have learned that in certain realms of endeavour, including media research and financial managment, feelings like "excitement" have no appropriate role to play, except to cloud judgment and mask reality. (How is that Facebook IPO doing for those "excited" first-day investors?) When one can analyze data or make a business decision on the merits -- without the distraction of useless, even counterproductive, emotion, one can be satisfied, if not proud, of one's efficient and effective performance. To paraphrase Peter Drucker, the professional must only strive to do the right things and to do things right. And that's happiness enough for me. As for my friend Bruce's 'big data' excitement, I am reminded of a line from Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5). At the moment the 'big data' story is "a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets (its) hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more: it is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing."
    Good luck with getting MRC Accreditation for a TV audience measurement service based innumerable unrepresentative samples the data from which have been tortured by statistics until they confess to a rating.

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