TNS Launches Product Placement Measurement Service

As product placement becomes ever more entrenched as an advertising vehicle, a number of companies have leaped into the fray to provide tools to measure the value of such initiatives. The latest offering comes from TNS Media Intelligence, which unveiled its new service Monday.

The new service offers the monitoring of branded integration appearances on broadcast network and cable TV programming. The system will be made available on TNSMI's Stradegy multi-media platform. Branded entertainment and traditional TV advertising data can be viewed in one place, allowing easy side-by-side comparison of brand appearances against 18 other types of media.

The company plans to market the service--which has been in the works for the last eight months--to advertising and media agencies, as well as to marketers and the broadcast and cable networks, said Lori Madeloff, svp, product and custom services for TNSMI.

Madeloff insisted that the new service would differ from other product placement measurement tools such as Nielsen's Place*Views--which tracks branded entertainment in prime time, and looks at which brands, which shows, how long the exposure was, and what the talent said about it, among other things. Other such current services enjoying a degree of popularity in the industry are IAG's In-Program Performance, which tracks viewer recall of branded entertainment, and iTVX, which helps advertisers determine what they should pay, applying a performance-based fee structure to such deals.

"Our methodology is a bit different from our competitors in that we're looking at a fluid appearance--just because it's on the screen for a second and the camera pans away and back, we don't count it as being on screen twice, for example," Madeloff said. "We look at how the product is integrated, such as whether it was in the foreground and the background. Is there clutter? That is, is it being surrounded by other brands? We then associate with an audience number."

"One other difference is we don't assign a value," she added. "We have enough variables involved so that our clients can assess how beneficial the appearance was or not."

When asked about the various services, media buyers uniformly said that it was a matter of course that more information is always appreciated, but knowing what you're looking at within a specific context is what makes such services move beyond the novelty phase.

"If the common carrot stick is the 30-second spot, what is 30 seconds of product exposure worth?" asked John Rash, svp, director, broadcast negotiations for Campbell-Mithun. "Can it even be quantified when the on-air treatment will differ so significantly from the program where the product is featured?"

Shari Ann Brill, president and director of programming services, Carat USA, said that in general, such services will naturally be welcomed even if just to get a sense of what the competition is up to.

"Knowing your competition used to be just knowing the other guy's ad dollars," Brill said. "Now, part of the way you can get your client to participate is you can say: 'Well, they're doing product placement, maybe I should look into this more.' In the Godfather movies, they say, 'Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.' This is a good way of doing that."

For her part, Madeloff acknowledged that the concept and use of branded entertainment is evolving, and TNSMI has tried to ensure flexibility within the system. The service's methodology provides a broad range of descriptive details on the type and prominence of each brand appearance recorded, including visual and verbal dimensions, character interaction, time duration, brand visibility and exclusivity, and level of plot integration. Audio and video clips are also available.

"Our clients, if they have specific needs--we could potentially customize information, but that's a bit further down the road," Madeloff said.

So far, the competitors such as iTVX have welcomed TNSMI's foray into branded entertainment measurement, as it will highlight the need for various kinds of services offered by the different companies as they refine their approaches.

"We were the first ones in the industry with Reese's Pieces and the movie "ET," and what we do is very, very specific: we measure the quality of a product placement in relation to a 30-second commercial," said Frank Zazza, iTVX's chief executive. "That's all we do. We don't go into how it compares to other product placements. We have an evaluation based on 50 factors and over 100,000 product placement executions."

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