In a call-to-action, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) Tuesday stated that “audience measurement is at a crossroads” and that “the future of ad-supported media” is at stake.
The call -- which is timed to lead into the ARF’s Audience X Science conference next week -- offered little in the form of action, but included obligatory rhetoric asking “the advertising industry to embrace greater transparency and cooperation, as well as provide increased support for trials of interoperable solutions that can address the gaps in existing single-source approaches.”
In a follow-up interview, ARF CEO and President Scott McDonald said the ARF explicitly did not issue a specific action plan or recommendations, but said it will “depend partly on the response to the discussion,” adding “you have to have energy from the room.”
Reminded that this isn’t the first time in the ARF’s long history that it has asserted that the industry is “at a crossroads,” McDonald acknowledged that, but said there is something different about this time. He noted that the media marketplace has become more fragmented than ever, and that it is grappling with multiple crises -- including a global pandemic that has impacted research respondents and panels, as well as the deprecation of cookies, advertising IDs, and increasing regulatory calls to protect consumer privacy.
“I do think there’s a sense of a bit of a pile on of those events in the last two or three years,” McDonald emphasized.
A MediaPost query on Google Search yielded an index of 90,200 references to pages including keywords “ARF,” “advertising research” and “crossroads,” including at least one going back to 1963.
Another was a 2012 statement by Jane Clarke, managing director of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), which is now part of the ARF, in which she said: “The industry is at a crossroads and we need to be committed – as an industry – to addressing the problem.”
Crossroads, tipping point, whatever. There has never been this level of criticism over the Nielsen TV ratings. The amount of disruption in media measurement is staggering.
That's a very dramatic lead, Joe. But to think that the future of ad-supported media is at stake because of a slight "undercount"of "linear TV" viewing by adults aged 18-49 in 2020 by Nielsen or that this so because Nielsen has not yet fully implemented a panel---or collection of panels----that tells us exactly which digital devices are in use and which services and shows are being streamed is something of a leap into space. Is Facebook about to lose all of its millions of mostly mom and pop regional/ local advertisers because of this? Are the broadcast TV networks doomed? What about radio and magazines or OOH? Will they, too, lose all---or most of their ad revenues? Or are we really only concerned about TV ---"linear" or streaming---plus digital video? Here, the specs for an ideal TV rating service are all too obvious. Measure all device usage in all locations, make panelists indicate whether they are watching the shows whenever selected, include a measurement of second by second attentiveness for all devices in all locations. That's about it, folks.
@Marshall Cohen: Re. "never been this level...," do you have any metrics to back that up? And what is their standard deviation?
Not sure about "crossroads" but clearly we are going down a path of privacy protection where developments can be interpreted as leading to less privacy not more. For example, Apple deprecates MAIDs but knows everything I do AND reads my e-mails (and uses that information). we are replacing the most anonymous of identifiers..cookies...with PII based identifiers. Perhaps the cross-roads is that it is time for the industry to make its case to consumers and legislators that targeted advertising adds value to consumers via greater relevamce rather than viewing it as an intrusion.
Marshall, if you go back to the early 1960s there was a huge amount of blame placed on Nielsen for deceiving the TV networks into believing that violence laden cop, western and adventure shows were what people liked---based on "erroneous" data from a panel that had less than a thousand homes supplying the data for a particular evening. Then, too, people were running about yelling about sample size issues as well as how this small panel was selected and maintained with the result that there was a major congressinal investigation about TV ratings. This dragged on and on but the investigators never found a smoking gun---only minor lapses and failings which were speedily corrected. The outcome was, in the end a good one---the formation of the MRC--which still provides a very useful policing function today. But let's not get carried away. The TV rating "sky" has not fallen. It has slipped somewhat and corrective action is needed and, I'm sure,. will be taken. What's really important is how we approach the next step---devising a modern national "TV" rating service and getting it funded by all parties so one side---the sellers ---doesn't dominate the decision making.
@Joe, Here, I am using qualitative data. To this veteran research guy, it "feels" very different.
@Marshall Cohen: Well, quantiatively, you may be right. It's a blunt tool, but I just did Google queries for each year including the terms "Nielsen TV Ratings" and "criticism," and 2021 does indeed index high. If I prorate the year-to-date 2021 Google results for 12 months, I come up with about 34,533, which would rank it the highest since I started covering Nielsen in 1983.
Ed certainly has a different opinion on this, he had mentioned to me:
"Nielsen has not been criticized "for years" for producing "inaccurate" ratings."
Benny, even back in the 1960s, nobody believed that Nielsen was grossly misrepresenting America's tastes in TV fare. Indeed, when Nielsen's findings were compared with those of other companies---like The American Research Bureau's household diary studies or the Trendex telephone coincidentials conducted in major markets---- the results were very close. As for the Congressional investigation, it was a wild goose chase---in effect blaming Nielsen, who was merely the messenger, for all of the violent shows that began appearing on TV---but, at least it spawned the MRC, which was a good thing.
Ed, 1960 is 61 years ago. It's a very long time. For example, GE, Kodak, IBM, 61 years ago is very different companies what they are and how they operate right now.
That's correct, B