We thought it was a bad thing for the reason Madison Avenue ordinarily considered time-shifted viewing bad: because people tend to fast-forward through commercials when they're playing back programs. That's true, and if that is what was being added back into the new Nielsen commercial ratings, that would truly be bad. But as Poltrack explains it, that's not the case at all.
"When Nielsen goes to commercial ratings, they will eliminate all fast-forwarded commercials," Poltrack notes, adding that the reason has nothing to do with advertising altruism, but is a pragmatic byproduct of the way Nielsen monitors television.
Nielsen's new A/P meters detect audiences by monitoring the audio codes embedded in the signal of the TV shows -- and commercials -- they are watching, he says, noting. "There is no audio when people are fast-forwarding, so those viewers are not picked up. Every commercial minute that is picked up by Nielsen will only be a minute in which someone is watching a commercial in normal playback mode."
Thanks, Dave. That's something we haven't understood since late last year, when Nielsen unveiled its plans to begin reporting DVR playback of TV shows this year. But it makes a lot of sense. And now that we understand it, we're all for it, and hope all advertisers and agencies understand it too.
As for a related point that we also criticized, Poltrack's observation that there is essentially no difference for most advertisers between "live" only commercial ratings, and "live" plus "same day" of commercial playback, we also have to agree with him on that now that we understand the whole process. If there's no fast-forwarding -- i.e., commercial skipping -- then why wouldn't a spot played back within a few hours of the original telecast be as valuable as it was when it was originally scheduled? We understand why a spot aired the next day, or even several days later, would be a problem for some advertisers, especially ones offering day-in-date messages, but Nielsen's "same day" data includes any spot played back by 3 a.m. the following morning.
The truth is that time-shifting is now the way of life in the TV advertising business, and it will be increasingly so. And Poltrack's explanation has, well, shifted our thinking on the subject.
Now if he could just come up with a good way to explain how to get rid of those pesky VCR recording ratings that are also embedded into the Nielsen database.