Starcom Signs First Agency Deal for Commercial Ratings

TNS Media Research, Charter Communications Cable Team for L.A. Test

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Media agency Starcom took a step closer to the commercial-ratings holy grail yesterday, signing the first agency deal with TNS Media Research to gain second-by-second measurement data.
Second-by-second ratings will provide new levels of data about how many viewers are actually watching commercials.
Second-by-second ratings will provide new levels of data about how many viewers are actually watching commercials.

Next-day data
The information will give Starcom a first opportunity to access viewing activity across 350 TV stations in 300,000 homes served by cable operator Charter Communications in the Los Angeles market. The data will be available the following day via a system called InfoSys. The Publicis Groupe agency will have access to what is known as "slip-stream" data from digital-cable set-top boxes. Those stats allow the ad agency to look at audience flow -- a tracking of what channels viewers tune to as well as their channel-changing habits. It will also show Starcom's clients how long viewers stay put on any one channel.

Second-by-second data is coveted because it gives a level of granularity never available before and allows advertisers to see precisely how many viewers remained tuned in for the duration of a given ad. Most of the industry is still analyzing minute-by-minute data. But because most ads don't generally run longer than 30 seconds, it's been tough for advertisers to get to a precise viewing figure for their own spots.

The move is significant given that Starcom earlier this year carved ad deals based on minute-by-minute data with three cable channels, the Weather Channel, We and AMC. The availability of second-by-second data opens a whole new door for Starcom clients such as General Motors Corp., Nintendo, Oracle, Miller Brewing Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and Kellogg. The agency may choose at a later date to negotiate ad buys based on the number of people who viewed an entire ad or the number of viewers that saw just part of it.

'Huge leap forward'
"We have a lot of knowledge of minute-by-minute data," said Chris Boothe, Starcom chief activation officer. "To get to second-by-second data on a large sample size will lead to understanding engagement. The amount of data we're getting will be very valuable to our clients. It's a huge leap forward, we're excited and thrilled."

The data won't throw much light on viewing activities in time-shifted households (where viewers watch programs on DVRs and may view ads days after their original run dates), but TNS Media Research is working to develop a system that can measure those viewers. TNS Media Research agreed in April to launch a video-audience measurement system in Los Angeles in partnership with Charter. Other cable operators are expected to follow suit.
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