Is The TV Business Ready For Ad Ratings?

  • by , Featured Contributor, August 4, 2022
The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Media Insider. If you feel like commenting, you might first check out the comments section from when it ran before, which includes my noting other points I failed to make the first time.

I’m going to call out Shaun Farrar, super-smart longtime industry leader and senior director, global media at Monster Worldwide,  for his suggestion to write this column. He recently read a piece about the need for new currencies in television advertising that called for the industry to base ad campaign transactions (what you pay for) on actual audience viewership of the ad itself, not the average viewership across the entire show where the brand’s ad was aired.

I’m sure that many of you more digitally focused readers might be a bit surprised to learn that most TV ad campaigns in the U.S. are bought, sold and measured not on how many people actually watched the ad, but instead on the average number of people who watched the entire show. Of course, as any of us who has watched TV since the early 1970s knows, the broad-based introduction of the remote control has guaranteed that channel surfing is endemic during ad breaks.



Why does this matter? Because program ratings are typically 5% to 15% percent higher than ad ratings.

As those in the world of advanced TV advertising know, when you measure the audiences of ads versus average audience ratings across the entire 30- or 60-minute show, the difference is never less than 5% and frequently closer to 15%.

Importantly, not all ad breaks retain the audience the same way, either. Those airing at the beginning of a show and those that are shorter retain better. NFL broadcasts are among those that retain the best. Local ad breaks with lots and lots of ads retain the worst.

I’m really excited about all of the talk of new currencies for TV as it merges with CTV and the digital ad ecosystem. It's great that we’re now seeing companies like iSpotTV, VIZIO and Samsung bring massive directly measured panels to a market that previously only had Nielsen’s highly curated but relatively small panel.

This competition has caused Nielsen to create Nielsen One, its hybrid offering for the future. It’s also caused dozens of other companies to enter the TV ad measurement field.

However we go forward, and with whatever new suppliers, I hope that -- at the least -- we attack some of the real, low-hanging fruit in the gaps in today’s TV ad measurement. Content versus ad ratings should be first in line.

How can we make TV and CTV ad buys apples-to-apples when the former’s audience numbers are inflated by people that watched the show, but not the ad, and the latter are only based on those whom the server counted as actually receiving the ad?

Simply, we can’t. So let’s fix it. What do you think?

8 comments about "Is The TV Business Ready For Ad Ratings?".
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  1. Kevin Killion from Stone House Systems, Inc., August 4, 2022 at 11:49 a.m.

    Um, C3?

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 4, 2022 at 12:53 p.m.

    Dave, I'm surrised at your definition of how TV ratings measure "audiences". On a national basis, Nielsen obtains  a claim by a TV home resident that he/she is "watching" a show at the outset,  when the channel or app is selected and a program comes on the screen. It is then assumed that that person watches every second of content, including commercials, unless the "viewer" informs the system that this has ceased to be the case---which almost never happens---even though many people absent themselves during program and commercial content. The "currency" now in use is average commercial minute ratings only for those minutes where commercials actually appeared on the TV screen----zappers are excluded. But even so, this produces a vast overstatement of actual commercial watching as only a third or so of the persons in the room just prior to an average break look at an average commercial for at least two seconds.

    That said, I support the inclusion of attentiveness measurements in our national TV rating surveys even though I do not see these as instruments for greatly improving  exposure to TV commercials --as the sellers will, invariably, hike their CPMs for shows which keep more of their viewers in the room during ad breaks, thereby nullifying any gains made by  buyers trying to place their bets on such shows. There are other, much more important benefits of attentiveness metrics---but that's another story.

    The bad news---especially for advertisers---is that attentiveness is not going to be part of our new national TV ratings as the sellers, who will be asked to pay most of the cost, will not allow it. They want those big, blown up  "impressions" to be their "audience currency". And they will get what they want.

  3. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia, August 4, 2022 at 1:20 p.m.

    Folks, my apologies. This is a terrible column that I wrote too fast and did a very poor job making my points. We should not have run it again.
    Please see the comments from its original publication where I tried to explain it better.
    i promise not to ever write such a poor column again and waste your time.

  4. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics replied, August 4, 2022 at 1:29 p.m.

    This is why Dave Morgan is a highly regarded industry leader. He accepts responsibility and acts on it quickly. A model for many of us, for sure. 

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 4, 2022 at 1:42 p.m.

    Second that,  Jaxk.

  6. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 4, 2022 at 1:44 p.m.

    Make that Jack, Jack. Not Jaxk.

  7. Shwetal Patel from IRI Worldwide, August 4, 2022 at 7:23 p.m.

    It's a big issue and the industry needs to have a more robust offering.  Looking forward to seeing and using the new solutions.  We are in early innings and more consolidation will most likely happen.

  8. Neil Ascher from The Midas Exchange replied, August 5, 2022 at 2:57 p.m.

    Go be on your vacation and forget it!

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