The VAB And Nielsen: War Of Words Continues

The war of words continued late on Friday between the VAB, the TV advertising trade group, and Nielsen, regarding the VAB’s claim that the media researcher has been under-counting TV viewing during the pandemic.

The VAB has said Nielsen’s lack of maintenance of Nielsen panel homes during the pandemic contributed to under-counting of national TV viewers, as well as other issues.

In response to the VAB's letter that Nielsen should immediately submit to an audit with the Media Rating Council and its auditors, Nielsen now says, in a statement, late on Friday:

“We have been clear and transparent with the MRC and our clients on every change in protocol we needed to make during Covid to keep our people and panelists safe.... A single third party audit is the best approach for the industry and we will work closely with the MRC on all audit requests."



Nielsen adds: “We also conducted our own assessment of the drivers of the reported audience estimates in the white paper we shared with the VAB and industry last week.”

“Our work with the MRC, the independent body created for this very reason, is ongoing and should serve the purpose of an independent audit. Since VAB members are also MRC members, they should feel free to engage directly with the MRC.”

In response to this, Sean Cunningham, president and chief executive officer of the VAB, issued a statement on Friday.

“Nielsen’s refusal to take any type of action, in the face of a research-backed request from its key industry stakeholders, is profoundly disappointing and a massive disservice to a TV marketplace that has had a stellar track record for collaboration and transparency.”

In the statement, Cunningham adds: “This response -- or lack thereof -- denying a third-party evaluation of its Covid data is a glaring negative outlier from the market’s currency provider and partner.”’

4 comments about "The VAB And Nielsen: War Of Words Continues".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 19, 2021 at 8:20 a.m.

    Has anyone compared Nielsen's local market meter findings with its national peoplemeter  data to see if they also showed a slight decline in viewing?How about MRI-Simmons? Did this ongoing survey show a decline in TV viewing?

    While I think that an after the fact audit might cool down some of the heat, what's needed is an ongoing system where basics like unoccupied homes, the percentage of super heavy and non viewing homes, panel cooperation and down time levels, etc. are monitored on a timely basis.

    Finally, and I asked this on several forums, wasn't anyone paying attention as the Nielsen national reports came in---day after day, week after week?Were we so preocccupied with the trees that we couldn't see the forrest?

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, April 19, 2021 at 9:04 a.m.

    In which way is the MRC not a third-party?

  3. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, April 19, 2021 at 4:48 p.m.

    John & Ed:
    As one of MRC's greatest supporters but also perhaps one it's sternest critics, your question is on-point.  MRC staff and their Board make every effort to ensure that MRC, a tri-partite, non-profit, industry organization, (that has no pure research vendors or consultants as members!) operates as an independent, Standards setting, management group.  It  contracts with various non-aligned, third party audit companies, e.g. E&Y Media Audit Team, to execute the complex and detailed accreditation audits to the on-going rigorous research Standards established across media platforms and their resulting databases by MRC. This is a requirement of the Justice Department under whose purview MRC operates.  The MRC collects no part of any actual audit fee to maintain complete neutality and must therfore survive on membership dues which are too low in my opinion.   
    It is my understanding that in addition, any possible conflict of interest by any member completely removes them from any part of the audit process and its ratification or otherwise by any select member Audit committee. e.g., this would apply to some of the social media business chameleons that are MRC members as media platforms but also also operate as 'research companies' as part of their business. 
    The bottom line for Nielsen clients in this regretable circumstance is surely and simply to exert whatever influence they believe is necessary on the MRC for additional in depth assessments in every area of concern as quickly as possible. 
    Hopefully this commentary will encourage a meaningful dialogue that can sensibly resolve this matter for all involved. 

  4. andy brown from Consultant replied, April 20, 2021 at 7:16 a.m.

    The comparative data is a good point Ed. With respect to SImmons/MRI, their instriument (based on recall) is less likely to pick up changes viewing to that degree required. However, I do wonder what the data points from ComScore/Rentrak are showing at the household level? (Their data may be subject to cord-cutting churn, but I would have thought given a useful refernece point)

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