Two major advertising trade groups—the American Association of Advertising Agencies and The Association of National Advertisers—issued statements today in support of the MRC and its mission of accrediting measurement companies. Both also stressed the importance of developing a single integrated cross-media measurement system.
The support came after the Media Rating Council suspended Nielsen’s accreditation after determining the ratings service undercounted viewers during the pandemic. That move prompted reaction in some quarters questioning the validity of MRC and its audit process.
“The 4A’s and the 4A’s Measurement Committee believe that the MRC is a key advertising and marketing industry keystone partner and must continue to play its necessary and agnostic role,” the 4As stated. “In turn, the advertising and marketing industry must continue supporting the MRC for their actions to hold measurement companies to consistent standards required by the industry.”
The group added that, “Industry collaboration is critical in creating new solutions for cross-media measurement. We have now moved beyond panels, and it is essential for all data owners to work together to standardize their data so that it can be used interoperably in an open architecture to offer deduplicated reach so advertisers and their agencies can understand the impact of cross-media campaigns.”
The ANA stated that “We fully support the MRC and its body of work. Although the MRC accreditation process and attendant rigor require time and resources, it is an indispensable organization. It is necessary to support and justify the billions of advertising dollars spent annually on paid media. Fiduciary transactions require accurate foundational measurement enabled by the MRC.”
The ANA underscored its belief in the urgent need to develop effective cross-media measurement, calling it “the most important measurement priority for marketers” and one that should “meet the principles of MRC accreditation.”
The group said the effort to develop a single integrated CMM solution should be led by a consortium of trade bodies that represent the various industry constituents… Making meaningful progress now requires a substantial commitment for real change accompanied by a significant pledge of resources to overcome the material barriers that have impeded past progress across the measurement ecosystem.”
Someone mentioned to me in the past that Nielsen has not been criticized in years for producing inaccurate ratings. You know what? Inaccurate and incomplete in this case is practically the same. Just because dismays are not being reported in print how media companies are longing for more comprehensive measurement, doesn't mean that is not true. Now the cat is out of the bag. CTV/OTT media has been around for years. It's unfortunate that it has played out like this.
Benny, when a TV time buyer makes decision about what channel to buy for the client's TV campaign---with client approval, of course-----it's based on various factors---the type of programming, audience demos, ad clutter ratios, CPMs, etc. etc. and usually the buy involves commercial placements in many shows across a period of time. When the seller guarantees audience delivery, it's not show by show nor telecast by telecast, its for the entire package, in aggreagte. Therefore the key is whether Nielsen got the ratings right in terms of share of audience of each seller, not whether Nielsen "understated" the viewership of one demo---adults aged 18-49 ----by 2-6% for a certain period. That may be a minor---but painful ---issue for some sellers but it's not the real problem.
So far, there is no evidence that Nielsen has ever grossly misrepresented the way the "linear TV" audience is divided up by network or for most individual TV shows. As for "completeness" I assume that you are referring to including streaming and other forms of "digitaL" or "online"- sourced exposure. I believe that Nielsen now measures all TV set usage, including streaming as well as a fair amount of smartphone, tablet and desktop usage in the home but it is not all the way there yet regarding getting all of the device usage that might be included---I hereby invite any one at Nielsen to clarify or correct me if I'm wrong on this. However, the vast majority of ad-supported TV viewing is being measured by Nielsen and remember my point about how time is sold---the audience guarantees are usually for the entire schedule, not each component---so small show by show variations---tend to average out. In research, nothing is perfect---but advertisers are not making bad decisions based on Nielsen data---they are making them for other reasons.
Those industry bodies must be apoplectic with some of the 'research' being published online.
Not a good look Ed.
"The debut of the company’s Streaming Video Ratings comes as a consortium of networks is questioning the accuracy of Nielsen’s TV product during the pandemic. The Video Advertising Bureau, which represents networks to the ad community, has demanded a third-party audit of Nielsen ratings starting in March 2020, claiming Nielsen has let its national TV panel degrade during the pandemic. The company refused, noting that its services are regularly audited by the nonprofit Media Rating Council." Source: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-news/nielsen-expands-streaming-measurement-efforts-4170940/
So what happened after these complaints were made? Well, we all have seen the news. "In May, the MRC determined Nielsen likely undercounted TV audiences in February of this year, and Nielsen indicated last month it intended to seek a hiatus for its national ratings so it could work to upgrade them with less public scrutiny." Source: https://variety.com/2021/tv/news/nielsen-national-ratings-suspension-media-rating-council-1235053949/
You can say advertisers are using Nielsen data for other reasons, and yes that could be true also. But it does not mean what was mentioned above was not true. If you are saying that the MRC made a mistake in its decision, I think there are very few people in that camp.
It is not a good look when it was reported that "Nielsen indicated last month it intended to seek a hiatus for its national ratings so it could work to upgrade them with less public scrutiny."
Benny, while I understand the TV time sellers' concerns about a small understatement of "audience", which can cost a seller money in the form of make goods for "underdelivery", the truth of the matter is that the numbers used as our national TV buying/selling "currency" are vastly inflated to begin with. They are dubbed average commercial minute viewers---usually exppressed as ratings---but in reality, upwards of 25% of those counted as "viewing" a commercial are not even present while another 30-40% are paying absolutely no attention---and I'm not including those who zap the commercials as Nielsen excludes them from its ratings.
The real push is by the TV networks and digital video/TV ad sellers to monetize their digitally derived audiences---which means that they want Nielsen to find every page view on any screen in any location---so they can charge for it. I don't blame them as I would do exactly the same thing were I in their shoes. But page views that last two or more seconds are not comparable to typical TV viewing situations---even when we take into account the commercial avoidance I described, above.
Net, net, don't get your hopes up about a real revolution in TV ratings.Improvements, why not? But the digital dream of direct contact with countless millions of households as the basis for cross media comparisons---will probably reamain just that---a dream.
-----completing my reply. Benny, Nielsen has not ceased providing its national ratings---as one might infer by your comment. Nielsen remains as the totally dominant source of national TV audience estimates and is still being used by virtually all "'linear TV" time sellers and buyers---sometimes along with other information as add-on ---and sometimes valid ---refinements. I expect that in short order, Nielsen will make peace with the MRC and become more open about its methodology and various research issues---and we will be back where we started---with everyone trying to figure out what's really needed in a rating service of the future. We don't have that answer yet, though to me it's pretty obvious. Every screen must be monitored, whenever a screen is used to view content, those present must qualify themselves as viewers of the content---or not, an attentiveness measurement must be added so we get actual eyes-on-screen data, not just claimed program content viewers---especially for commercials.
Ed, as I said above, companies are unhappy with incomplete reports, it's been reported many times, there is no denying this. Yes, Neilsen has not and will not stop providing these rating reports, and companies will continue to buy these reports. It does not mean they are happy with it, media planning would still be done with such reports. It may be the case the other alternatives are just not as good, but perhaps the alternatives will get better and Neilsen is facing an existential crisis of sorts. There are small and early signals that are eroding Neilsen influence, will it gain critical momentum, unlikely but we shall see, as reported here:
Neilsen even published a 19-page document trying to explain trends during the pandemic, but advertisers and, media companies' pressure continues to mount.
After having shots fired from all sides, for a few months, did David Kenny capitulate after facing a possible existential threat? He did mention, "We haven’t been perfect", ok not a big deal right? No one is perfect 100% of the time, but we have to show we are hearing the critics and working on it. Which I think they are now. Nielsen also says it’s working to restore its national panel to its pre-pandemic size and pushing ahead with a cross-platform initiative it calls Nielsen One. It’s currently slated to begin rolling out late in 2022.
But didn't Neilsen dismiss their critic's complaints? Now they say "it’s working to restore its national panel"? Why? was it broken? And so here we are listing to their spin. Will the fix be enough? That is the next debate over the next few years. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-news/nielsen-media-companies-tv-ratings-improvements-1235010407/
Benny, let's just keep a close eye on what develops and continue the dialog as movement---if and when it happens---takes place.
Ed, having worked at a syndicated research company in the past, this kind of interaction is quite pedestrian. What made it a big deal is that they got caught, denied it, and double down to denying it. At this stage, clients, advertisers, media companies are all foaming in the mouth, regardless of what their reasons are, mob mentality is in effect.
I think when the issue arises, if they had to kowtow to their clients, and promised a fix ASAP, it would not have blown up like this. David Kenny did the right thing, capitulated to mitigate the risk of having a possible full-blown existential crisis. He did what a CEO should do, and managed the risk.
Benny, with all due respect, I think that you are getting caught up in the hype. The TV folks are going all out in a pressure campaign to force Nielsen to do what they want regarding digital/streaming audiences and they are using the 2020 "linear TV" gaffe as well as Nielsen's poor handling of that situation as a tool to add to the furor and panic Nielsen. Not that I wouldn't do the same thing---or something similar----if I worked for the TV interests. I probably would. But I think lots of what we are reading and hearing is a smoke screen masking the real purpose---even though some of the players---the advertisers, notably---don't seem to realize what the game is really about. It's about finding ways to increase ad revenues. That's my opinion as of now. If events indicate otherwise, I'll certainly rethink my position.
Full disclosure - I worked for Nielsen in Australia when TV measurement moved from diaries to PeopleMeters.
I was servicing the #1 commercial TV network as well as the (non-commercial) national broadcaster and several large advertising agencies.
Given that the TV ratings are 'the currency' delivered every morning, and that they every rating point (well, a tenth of a point) can mean big dollars, there is not a day that you don't get an irate call from at least one of the broadcasters. If #1 falls to #2 in the overnights you can get a "please explain" call. If a programme tanks on a night that they win prime-time, you can get a "please explain" call as to why that programme flopped. If the #1 national network has a market (we have five major metro markets) that wasn't #1 when all the other markets were winners ... you guessed it .. you can get a "please explain" all.
The moral of the story is that on any one day, you can only keep just one network in just one market happy (to a degree), while the others will have some form of gripe.
Ed, I am just showing you what's being reported, thus all these sources where I show you what people are reporting on. If you don't believe all that is being reported is true, that's fine also, for those who think otherwise, it is putting pressure on Neilsen. If you have any sources that say otherwise, let's see that, I think the community can benefit from this. David Kenny said and I quote this. "While we work to remediate issues raised by the MRC, we think it’s also critical to continue building a media future that accurately measures and reflects the consumer cross-platform journey and keeps pace with rapid technological advancements."
You can read what they intend to remediate on the issues brought up by MRC here: https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/press-releases/2021/mrc-update/
I think this letter is a big deal from the CEO of Neilsen. It's a departure from there is nothing wrong here, to we are going to fix these issues. It's all being reported and documented.
John, it's true, there is a lot of what have you done for me lately and not being able to please everyone, I don't doubt that at all. But it certainly feels different this time with the MRC suspending Nielsen’s accreditation. Everyone will still spend money on Neilsen, perhaps it's a slap on the wrist? But there are forces like VAB President and CEO Sean Cunningham who are encouraging emerging providers of audience measurement to lay their cards on the table. Do some people, let say Sean Cunningham has ulterior motives, I would think so, he had mentioned what he wanted. I think VAB member companies (media companies) will benefit from the competition.
Benny, I am well aware of what is being reported and what the various players are saying---rest assured of that. All I'm saying--and it's my opinion, of course---is that there's a lot of smoke but much less substance in this particular game. And if I were an advertiser---in particular---I would try to peer through the smoke to try to fathom what the underlying motives might be---all speculation, of course. In my book---and for very understandable reasons---the TV networks---broadcast and cable---want to get more money for their eyeballs and the way to get more money is to have more eyeballs "counted" no matter whether they are garnered via "linear TV" or by streaming, CTV, OTT, whatever. Nielsen has bought into this---also not surprising----as it must continue to please its primary customers---the TV networks/cable channels as well as the TV stations but there are reasons to believe that the various "audience" metrics are not really comparable. Unless advertisers get a handle on this, instead of allowing themselves to be complicit in the game, they will wind up being taken to the cleaners. I don't blame Nielsen for this---I blame the advertisers, many of whom are clueless about what's really happening. Wake up, CMOs.