Nielsen Adds Ratings for Away-From-Home TV Networks

Will Help Screens in Stores, Restaurants and Transit Locations Compete for Traditional TV Budgets

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Away-from-home TV networks at retail, restaurant and transit locations got a boost this week when Nielsen released its first quarterly audience report on the medium.

The report detailed the size and demographics of people who saw ads on the "fourth screen" -- fourth following TV, computer and mobile screens -- using standardized Nielsen methodology for the first time.

Gross Monthly Digital Video Ad Exposures
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Gross Monthly Digital Video Ad Exposures

It's a big deal because the digital out-of-home marketplace needs a standardized measurement system to better compete for TV advertising budgets -- something it's been trying to do with marketers like Schering-Plough. But digital out-of-home is currently bought and sold based on custom research studies that don't always paint the full picture of how each network fits into the larger industry context.

Nielsen's inaugural "Fourth Screen Network Audience Report" studied ad exposure among adults in 10 major out-of-home networks in movie theaters, bars and restaurants, health clubs, gas stations and hotels over the last four months of 2009. Those 10 networks generated 237 million monthly exposures among adults, according to Nielsen, 54% of whom were men and 46% of whom were women. Roughly half of those impressions were among the coveted 18-to-34 demographic.

Lucrative alternative
David Leider, CEO of Gas Station TV, a network that delivered 44% of its 21.3 million impressions to adults 18 to 34 in the Nielsen study, said that many networks like his own have been positioning their metrics as alternatives to cable network or local-TV buys for some time. "As we see our integration coming out of TV budgets, we rank consistently as a top 10 show when you compare our weekly audiences to television," he said. That's helped win increased spending from automotive, financial services, consumer packaged goods and wireless marketers, he said.

But it may prove particularly helpful that the TV industry's standards bearer is providing the new digital out-of-home measurements -- and on a basis comparable to TV ratings . National CineMedia and Screenvision, the top two cinema ad companies, delivered a combined average of 61.7 million monthly impressions, for example -- which Nielsen pointed out was the equivalent of about 20 prime-time commercials over a typical monthlong campaign.

"Clients are recognizing it more because it's being measured in exposures that clients are familiar with," said Ray Rotolo, exec VP of Aegis Media's Posterscope. "If Screenvision or National CineMedia is getting the equivalent of 3 million viewers in prime time, this gives us a stamp to go to our clients and say this is truly accountable media."

And as A-list TV producers like Mark Burnett look to digital out-of-home as a new venue to create original programming, the need for more accurate data will only be more crucial for marketers considering more spending in the emerging space.

Greater insight
"For the first time, ad buyers and sellers have a single source to evaluate digital place-based advertising networks in reaching key age and sex demographics, and compare these to other video sources such as TV," said Terrie Brennan, senior VP for new business development at Nielsen, in a statement accompanying the new measurements. "This syndicated report provides the insight necessary to understand the impact of advertising on these networks with television and Internet as well as other cross-media campaigns."

Traditional out-of-home media such as billboards have also been trying to improve their metrics, the better to compete for marketers' ad dollars.

The out-of-home industry is also eyeing areas beyond the new metrics. Nielsen's measurement system resulted from audience metrics guidelines created in 2008 by the Digital Place-Based Advertising Association, but that wasn't the only goal of those guidelines, according to Suzanne La Forgia, president of the DPAA.

"While a common audience currency is tremendously important to the acceptance and growth of this medium, it is but one facet of what the association works on for the industry," Ms. La Forgia said. "DPAA will continue to advance the adoption of the guidelines as they move towards standards, as well as tackle other key issues like creative best practices and ad format standards and consumer insights and engagement factors."

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