Rob Frydlewicz, VP-director of research, Carat Insight; Mike Kleha, director-media and metrics, Merck & Co.; David Poltrack, exec VP-chief research officer, CBS; Alan Gould, Co-CEO, IAG Research.
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“Ad effectiveness is directly related to program engagement,” David Marans, the former MindShare research chief who’s now exec VP of IAG, told a roomful of marketers and agency and network researchers at Manhattan’s Le Parker Meridian Hotel.
IAG executives suggested several ways advertisers and networks can use program engagement information -- some of it unorthodox. They suggest using information to negotiate engagement-based audience guarantees, post engagement levels just as they would ratings information, compare engagement levels on their own networks or buys to those of a competitor, make adjustments to upfront schedules based on engagement ratings, use it as a basis for make goods or marry engagement metrics to optimizers.
And Mr. Marans suggested that ratings shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of determining a TV program’s success, calling out the Olympics on NBC as an example. While ratings for the games were underwhelming, engagement levels were high, meaning 10 ratings points during the Olympics might have been the engagement equivalent of 14 during another program on another network.
Tens of thousands of surveys
IAG conducts tens of thousands of online surveys a day about programs and ads that aired the night before. It asks questions about a program’s plotlines and expresses a program’s engagement level as the percentage of questions viewers answered correctly. It asks similar questions about ads that aired within the program and again comes up with an ad-effectiveness level expressed as the percentage of questions that the viewer answered correctly. Not surprisingly, there is a high correlation between a program’s engagement and its ad effectiveness.
IAG identified the top shows for each network based on how engaged viewers said they were with the programming. For ABC, it’s “Desperate Housewives.” Over on CBS, “How I Met Your Mother” draws viewers in. On Fox, they’re glued to “24.” NBC, surprisingly, drew a top score for new comedy “Four Kings.” Not surprisingly, UPN’s most talked about comedy, “Everybody Hates Chris,” topped its list. At the WB, it was teen soap “One Tree Hill.”
IAG’s clients include major media agencies Carat, Initiative, MindShare, Starcom MediaVest Group, Universal McCann and Mediaedge:cia; advertisers such as Daimler-Chrysler, American Express, Anheuser Busch and Procter & Gamble; and 19 TV networks, including all the broadcasters.
Mr. Marans started off the morning presentation with reassuring words for TV, noting consumption is at an all-time high and downplaying the immediate impact of DVRs at only 12% penetration. He pointed out iTunes sells 30,000 TV show downloads a day. “Even Soapnet on a bad day has five times as many viewers,” he said.
Of course, more research companies are jumping into the fray, seizing on advertisers’ need to prove accountability and return on investment for media dollars. Mediamark Research, for example, has announced it will begin to survey consumers on how they use media, where they are when they use it, what else they are doing at the time and how focused they are while using a particular medium. The new survey, called MediaDay, will be conducted via telephone to reach U.S. consumers age 18-plus. The initial sample will be 8,000 people; 5,000 consumers will be surveyed each year thereafter. Respondents will be asked about their viewing/non-viewing of TV commercials on DVRs, instant-message usage, consumption and creation of blogs and use of the Internet to download music, movies and TV programs. It is expected to be out in the fourth quarter.
Dave Poltrack, president of CBS Vision, said the network uses engagement research to help it determine its schedule lineups. He also said he’s long believed determining a program’s pricing by counting its audience within age group alone is a poor practice. “Adding program attentiveness would improve that,” he said.
Mike Kleha, director of media and metrics at Merck, uses engagement research and said the goal is to get as close to reality as possible. He referenced upfront deals struck last year by Court TV and The Weather Channel.
“Do I want to reward networks for value that goes beyond the rating point?” he asked. “Absolutely.”