Nielsen Commercializes Social Network, Will Use As Super Ad Focus Group

On Super Sunday something else will kick off besides Super Bowl XLII: The world's largest focus group study on television advertising, courtesy of a burgeoning online social network being propagated by consumer research giant Nielsen Co. When the New England Patriots and the New York Giants take the field, tens of thousands of online users will take to their computer screens to rate the TV commercials running during the coverage of the game. It will be the first commercialized use of Hey! Nielsen, the online social community launched by Nielsen Co. last summer with a goal of creating a new method for measuring social buzz and interaction around brands, media, entertainment and sports properties.

As of this morning, Hey! Nielsen boasts 43,109 members, comprised mainly of media and entertainment enthusiasts who want to discuss and influence their favorite content. The Super Bowl focus group study, which will essentially be made available free for Nielsen clients will draw from hundreds of users who have volunteered to rate the Super Bowl ads in real time utilizing Nielsen's proprietary ratings and review scale. Nielsen will also compare those ratings with the comments and discussions posted by other Hey! Nielsen members.

It will be the first commercialized test of the social network, which was conceived by Karen Watson, senior vice president-communications at Nielsen Co. who continues to oversee its development. It is the first product to grow out of Nielsen's communications department, and Watson sees it has having great potential value for entertainment and media marketers as it grows.

Ultimately, she envisions humongous online focus groups comprised of 20,000 to 30,000 users, reviewing, commenting and evaluating media and entertainment content in real time. She says the service already has several "beta clients," though she declined to disclose who they are or what they might pay for its research findings.

Watson says Hey! Nielsen would be an alternative to other forms of audience measurement and consumer research produced by Nielsen, not in place of any existing methods.

"Our goal with Hey! Nielsen is to shine extra light on important emerging questions for advertisers," she says. "What do highly engaged consumers think? How do they react to advertising? To what extent do they tell others?"

During the Big Game, Nielsen will ask its Hey! Nielsen panelists to rate each commercial on a scale from 1 to 4 following each commercial break. Panelists can also add their own commentary after each commercial break and at the conclusion of the game.

Results will show which commercials were the most and least favorable, and whether the panelists are likely to use this advertiser's services in the future. Results from the live online focus group will be shared with Nielsen clients following the Super Bowl.

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