Nielsen Unveils System Tracking Audience Comp, Underage Viewers

In response to the growing needs of advertisers marketing in sensitive consumer categories such as alcohol, drugs and food, Nielsen today will unveil a new system that automatically tracks and alerts marketers and their agencies when their ads appear in television programming that has a questionable, or inappropriate audience composition. The system, dubbed DemoWatch, will be introduced today during the opening day of the annual meeting of the Association of National Advertisers in Phoenix.

The system, which is actually a new component and a refinement of KeepingTrac, a broader system Nielsen recently introduced that enables advertisers and agencies to automatically audit the performance of their national and local TV buys, alerting them when there are discrepancies in their TV advertising schedules and identifying when and where their campaigns stray from their original buying specifications.

The systems are part of an increasing onus marketers are placing on their agencies and the media they buy to be more accountable, and to adjust - or makegood on - discrepancies much more quickly than they ever had in the past.



"It allows agencies to enhance their operational efficiency, and it allows their clients to sleep resting easy that their television buys are running as scheduled," said Dave Thomas, president of media client services at Nielsen.

Historically, agencies have had to exhaust considerable manpower to resolve the myriad discrepancies that can occur between placing an order to buy a television schedule and what happens when those schedules actually air. Among the myriad discrepancies that can occur are the wrong spots running at the wrong time, or spots that do not deliver on audience levels that were guaranteed. Such discrepancies typically take months to resolve and often are not adjusted for until long after a marketer's advertising needs have passed.

"We've heard three months after the fact, but we've also heard of cases that are beyond that," said Daryl Battaglia, vice president of Nielsen Tracking Service, who helped develop the new systems.

Nielsen's Thomas said the new systems are part of an ongoing progression toward greater accountability and faster turnaround times. He noted that marketers have grown less tolerant of the types of inefficiencies the TV advertising marketplace has operated with in the past, and pointed out that many marketers are now employing auditing firms to check up on the accuracy and the performance of their agencies' TV advertising buys. To date, most of those audits have focused on the economic aspects of TV advertising buys. Increasingly, Thomas said, marketers in especially sensitive categories are being held to task to be accountable for the composition of the audiences they deliver. By various laws, regulations and/or industry and company guidelines, marketers in many categories are required to avoid reaching high concentrations of underage children with their advertising messages.

This has always been the case for beer, wine and spirit marketers, but it also has become a big issue with marketers in the prescription drug category, as well as the food industry. Other sensitive categories include R-rated movies and video games.

Following pressure from advocacy groups and greater scrutiny from federal regulators over concerns about childhood obesity, 11 major food marketers already have made various pledges limiting the amount of advertising for unhealthy food products that are exposed to children.

By encoding their commercials, tracking them and matching them with ratings in television programming, the DemoWatch application enables them to catch egregious occurrences in real time, and to take immediate corrective actions that might otherwise bring them under greater scrutiny.

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