Obit: Pioneering Media Researcher Gale Metzger, Dead At 83

Gale Metzger, a long-time media industry researcher, died Monday. He was 83.

Metzger, one of the last of a generation of early pioneers of media research and audience measurement that included the likes of Nielsen founder Arthur C. Nielsen, was highly regarded for both his statistical acumen as well as his research integrity.

Metzger, who in fact began his career at Nielsen, left to co-found media industry researcher Statistical Research, Inc., with Gerald Glasser. They split SRI into two entities and sold in two parts in 2001: the original radio measurement business to rival Arbitron (which has since acquired and absorbed by Nielsen); and a custom multimedia research division, which was sold to Knowledge Networks.

But Metzger is perhaps best known for creating the SMART (Systems for Measuring and Reporting Television) initiative, which began life when the TV industry commissioned SRI to audit Nielsen’s TV audience measurement system.

Networks, agencies, and advertisers then sponsored SRI to launch a new state-of-the-art TV audience measurement laboratory that helped bring digital innovation to the marketplace – addressing what many perceived to be antiquated methods used by Nielsen.

Among other things, Metzger envisioned a “SMART code,” an indelible code that would function like a universal product code (UPC) for television, enabling it to be tracked across platform regardless of technology used to distribute it.

"For Gale Metzger 'standards, accuracy and integrity' were extensions of basic human values- ethics, honesty and fairness. It was never situational or monetarily driven," recalls Barry Fischer, a long-time agency and media executive who worked closely with Metzger on a variety of research initiatives.

"Gale taught a generation of advertising executives that you could be honest and successful. The measurement standards Gale created yielded the facts upon which smart and reliable media allocation decisions could be made. For all who new Gale and how he thought about business, his was a glorious path to follow."

16 comments about "Obit: Pioneering Media Researcher Gale Metzger, Dead At 83".
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  1. Tim Brooks from consultant, March 17, 2020 at 11:25 a.m.

    One of the great pioneers of our industry, an example of integrity. And he had a sense of humor too. I still have one of the coffee mugs he handed out in 1989 emblazoned with the slogan "I survived the People Meter review!"

  2. David Stanton from GfK, March 17, 2020 at 11:31 a.m.

    So grateful to have known and worked with Gale ...  He was a mentor and friend whose high standards and kind manner still influence me every day. He was a "gentle man" in every sense. Thank you, GDM.

  3. Howard Shimmel from datafuelX, Inc., March 17, 2020 at 11:40 a.m.

    Our media research industry is so much better for Gale and his accomplishments. His work with SMART helped provide some much more visibility into Nielsen and their national TV measurement. He will be missed.

  4. Kevin Killion from Stone House Systems, Inc., March 17, 2020 at 12:02 p.m.

    So sorry to hear the news.  Gale was smart and delightfully interesting, and his dedication to research honesty was refreshing.  I'm glad to have played a bit of a role in SRI's first website and in the SMART project.

  5. Jonathan Sims from Independent, March 17, 2020 at 12:06 p.m.

    My memories of Gale Metzger: a great researcher with tremedous integrity who above all else also happened to be a very decent human being.

  6. Debbie Reichig from In-Focus Media Consulting, March 17, 2020 at 12:10 p.m.

    I always had the utmost respect for Gale and his willingness to experiment, lead and set high standards for research and for life.  

  7. M Cohen from marshall cohen associates, March 17, 2020 at 12:55 p.m.

    Gale was a media researcher legend who had the utmost dedication to accuracy -- no matter what it took -- coupled with his great integrity. He will be missed by all of us who try to measure media.

  8. Alan Wurtzel from mediasystems, March 17, 2020 at 1:25 p.m.

    Gale was an extraordinary researcher but an even more exceptional person.  I feel privileged to have known, worked and learned from him for over 25 years.  The industry owes him an enormous debt that will not be replicated.

  9. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics, March 17, 2020 at 2:22 p.m.

    Gale Metzger was the researcher's researcher. Everyone learned how to do it better from Gale. And he was the finest of human beings.  Gale made folks better for knowing him. I was blessed to have known him. 

  10. Cassandra Metzger from Premier Wellness Travel, March 17, 2020 at 3:27 p.m.

    Thank you for this amazing write up about my amazing Dad.  And for the lovely comments here. Much appreciated. And wonderful to read.  

  11. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, March 17, 2020 at 4:21 p.m.

    Such beautiful remembrances from Barry Fischer and others, all pointing in a single direction:
    The intersection of integrity, quality and humanity.
    Thank you, Gale, for leading by example.
    Never a discouraging word!

    "We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time."
    T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

  12. Arthur Bulgrin from Mr, March 17, 2020 at 4:57 p.m.

    To say that Gale had a significant influence on my career is an understatement. He was my mentor, my teacher, a role model, a friend, an innovator and just a true gentleman with the highest integrity. He was a great man whose contributions to research and media are profound. I will truly miss him.  

  13. Gabe Samuels from Gabe Samuels, Media Consultant, March 17, 2020 at 5:09 p.m.

    Gale Metzger was a fine human being. He was soft spoken but his words carried great weight. Gale was kind and generous to everyone who was fortunate enough to know him. Besides being incredibly smart, he was, not so deceptively, tenacious in persuit of integrity. Both in research and in business!
    I shall miss his kindness, his sense of humor and his loyal friendship. Rest In Peace my dear friend.

  14. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 17, 2020 at 5:42 p.m.

    A great loss for those who knew him as both a researcher and a fine human being--as I did. He will be greatly missed. RIP, Gale.

  15. Doug Pulick from National CineMedia, March 17, 2020 at 7:24 p.m.

    Though the time I spent on the SMART project with Gale was short, he always encouraged thinking outside the box and promoted collegiality among those who worked with him, often asking as many questions as he answered of those around him.   But maybe most of all I remember his smile, just like the one in the MediaPost photo.   

  16. Craig Jaffe from Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business, March 17, 2020 at 9:08 p.m.

    I would be hard pressed to think of someone more intelligent and creative in our industry than Mr. Metzger. He and I once discussed, "How do you know if a word is misspelled in the dictionary?" He said, that's the point. To enable anyone in any business to make decisions from data, it's essential to codify definitions, so there are standards which get at the truth--data should not arbitrarily vary depending on the company or the person you're talking to who is conducting the business. That's also why it was important to have had congressional hearings to consider the quality of TV audience, because at that time, some players were not forthright about their methodologies, and subsequently they went out of business. It sounds very much like P&G censuring digital publishers today. Mr. Metzger helped modernize the business of media as we know it, and arguably made it more accountable. Rest in peace.

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