Round Two in the Great Commercial-Ratings Debate

Nielsen Fires Off Letters to CAB, 4A's

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- MediaWorks is pleased to bring you the next installment in the great commercial-ratings debate. We are devoted to helping you sort through this confusing and complex issue, and will continue to update as the debate moves forward.
Nielsen has answered the concerns raised by the 4As and the CAB over commercial ratings. Read the letters.
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Read the Letters:


bug Nielsen's Letter to 4As

bug Nielsen's Letter to CAB
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Last week, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau both sent letters to Nielsen enumerating their concerns about the forthcoming commercial-ratings plan. Nielsen on Aug. 16 sent them letters answering their concerns. The 4A's letter is addressed to Judy Vogel, U.S. director-media research and insights for OMD USA, who is chair of the 4A's Media Research Committee. It gives answers for 15 concerns the 4A's had flagged. The CAB letter is addressed to Ira Sussman, CAB's VP-research and insight, and addresses 17 different points of concern.

For those of you playing along at home, MediaWorks has posted the letters, so that every point can be carefully pored over. Enjoy.

Just to recap ...
A recap for those just joining us: Nielsen Media Research, long the sole provider of program ratings for TV-ad buying and selling, will launch a metric this November that will be known as an "average commercial rating."

The research company decided on this path after much hue and cry from the major industry players, notably the broadcast networks and the media-buying agencies, for a way to measure who is actually watching the commercials that interrupt the programming that Nielsen was measuring. The reason for the hue and cry was the advent of digital video recorders, which allow consumers to conveniently fast forward through the ads.

Leading up to this year's upfront negotiations -- in which TV networks sit down with media agencies and sell them ad spots in advance of the fall season -- it became apparent that the media agencies felt very strongly they should not be paying for DVR viewers, who may or may not be seeing the ads. Broadcast TV networks, especially ABC, felt strongly media agencies should pay for those viewers. The networks, however, finally came around to the media agencies' point of view, and sold their spots based only on "live" ratings, meaning only the people who watched a show at the time it aired were counted.

The pleased, and the not-so-pleased
To avoid a similar problem next year, the industry asked Nielsen to come up with a solution in the form of a commercial-ratings system. Nielsen, after listening to many of its clients, devised a plan to release an average commercial rating. To arrive at the rating, Nielsen will add up all the breaks in a show and average them out to come up with a single number that could be used as a trading currency. This pleased the broadcast networks, for the most part, and Mediaedge:cia's Chief Investment Officer Rino Scanzoni.

That solution, however, has proved to be less than satisfactory to folks at the 4A's and the CAB, and Magna Global Exec VP-Audience Research Steve Sternberg sees numerous hurdles to this metric becoming the standard currency on which deals are made. All parties are now looking for common ground.
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