Is Nielsen's Audience Measurement Makeover What Marketers Need?

Nielsen announced a major do-over of its media measurement and tracking platform this week. David Kenny, Nielsen's chief executive officer and chief diversity officer, called it "a single cross-media solution to drive comparable and comprehensive metrics across all platforms." It will launch in 2024.

The year 2024 will be the final year of Joe Biden’s first term as president (God willing). It will be a year where every human on the planet has been inoculated for COVID-19. It will be the year of the Paris summer Olympics. And, if all goes to plan, it will be the year of the third manned moon mission, Artemis III.

Given what humanity has gone through in 2020, it is probably fair to say it’s impossible to know if any or all of these things will actually happen. But it seems the Nielsen launch is a reasonable certainty.

From the inception of digital media as a viable advertising medium, marketers have complained that it is hard to know which media touchpoints deliver what amount of audience. In fact, they complained about the lack of a standardized metric (“media currency”) across all paid media even before digital media. For at least 50 years, marketers have wanted the ability to assign TV-like ratings to radio, out-of-home and print, and now digital.



Sure, it was hard to provide an answer to this quest, as the measurement technology way back when was simplistic (written diaries, anyone?). It’s also fair to say that part of the blame for not figuring it out has to be placed with media owners and agencies. When times were good -- their existence was not under threat from newcomers, and the status quo safeguarded their lucrative positions -- there was little incentive to promote or support the quest for insights that would show how each medium performed relative to one another.

Some countries, like the U.K. and The Netherlands, did have multimedia initiatives in prior years. But these were typically complementary efforts that could not and did not deliver the holy grail of ratings across all touchpoints.

It was in October of 2009 that multiple TV networks, P&G, and a few media buying agencies here in the U.S. announced the creation of The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement. Its initial intent was to directly challenge Nielsen, and to “look for ways to measure TV ratings data across multiple platforms and make the results publicly available” per The Hollywood Reporter. That never happened. In 2020, Nielsen is still firmly in place as the single oracle of ratings.

And now, at long last, Nielsen itself is taking the step to provide multi-touchpoint ratings. Many advertisers and marketers have commented with encouragement and support for the effort. Can I offer a counterpoint?

Is it possible that by 2024, we will buying mostly audiences rather than ratings? And that these audiences come packaged with knowledge about who they are, where we get them, how many we hit how often, etc.? In other words, just when Nielsen finally cracks open the multi-touchpoint holy grail, the industry will have moved on and have limited need for such a solution? It is entirely possible. I am less certain about those Artemis missions, though….

4 comments about "Is Nielsen's Audience Measurement Makeover What Marketers Need?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 11, 2020 at 2:09 p.m.

    Maarten, I must say that I have heard very few---if any---- CMOs at major branding marketers who were privately  pleading for comparable audience  metrics for TV versus radio or magazines in times past and very little of this now, where digital is concerned. Most of them could care less---except they won't admit it. That kind of talk is mostly for industry gatherings where buzz words and image enhancing posturing are the rule---except little or nothing is ever done to follow through on what was said. 

    True, there is lots of crousing about this now, but its mainly from digital media ad time sellers who think that having some sort of magical metric that equates "linear TV" with digital TV will bring them more business. That's not much of a surprise. But, even if such a magical metric could be developed---which I seriously doubt as there are too many variables to deal with----it would simply facliltate the selling and buying process ssomewhat---which I believe could be a good thing---but hardly a decisive thing.

    As for Nielsen's new initiative, while I think it's a good first step, what I expect to see is merely "audience" estimates based primarily on the fact that an ad was displayed on a screen for a certain length of time---as if that tells us that the presumed "viewer" was present and, if present, paid any visual  attention to the ad message. This will be great for the sellers as it wildly inflates the size of  "commercial audiences"---often doubling or even tripling what actually happened in this regard.

    If I'm correct on this, advertisers, media planners and buyers will still have to make independent judgements on the realtive value of the reported "impressions" or GRPs generated by each medium and media context. So, on the plus side, at least we will get data from a single, independent, source --Nielsen---for "linear TV and digital TV---which is a good start. But I doubt that the resulting info will be giving us any tangible indication of the advertising values associated with each situation---even in the broad "ad exposure" sense.. That determination will still be up to us.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 11, 2020 at 2:47 p.m.

    Make that "grousing", not "crousing" in the bgeinning of the second paragraph in my reply.Sigh!

  3. Ahmad Azhar Bin A Talib from Langkawi Brickworks Sdn Bhd, December 11, 2020 at 4:59 p.m.

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  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 11, 2020 at 5:45 p.m.

    Ahmad, as you seem to be a media expert what do you think of the idea of "TV" switching from GRPs to "impressions"?

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