Increased focus on ROI
The moves by Weather Channel and SMG highlight the growing importance of research tools that go beyond broad viewership measures. Earlier this year, for example, Weather Channel inked an upfront deal with SMG’s MediaVest, New York, that created a joint research venture to examine how programming influences brand recall. Initiatives such as these are driven by marketers' increased focus on return on investment.
The Weather Channel is specifically interested in proving something it’s long surmised: Its viewers don’t flip the channel during commercials.
“The knock has been, you have such a short length of view, do people actually see the commercials?” said Paul Iffaldano, exec VP-general manager for TWC Solutions. But, Mr. Iffaldano said, since the Weather Channel has rejiggered its pods and capped their length at three commercials, “we retain much higher viewing levels through our commercial breaks and this will give us a chance to prove that.”
The data will be delivered weekly in a file format so clients can create their own analysis software or outsource it. Previously, much of this data was available through Nielsen’s N Power system but it wasn’t available for third-party post-buy or TV buying systems, said a Nielsen spokeswoman, who called the new database “a completely revamped approach.” Now any third-party processor, on behalf of a client, can use it to create analysis software. Weather Channel will be working with its post-buy system, Star Media, to match an ad’s traffic report to ratings from the exact minutes the spot ran.
Getting a better handle on how people behave during breaks -- depending on the time of day, the program or the network -- gives SMG more ammo for planning, negotiation and optimization. "We know consumers behave differently during breaks," said Kate Sirkin, exec VP-global research director for SMG.
Some media buyers ask why, if Nielsen can measure TV viewing on a minute-by-minute level, can’t viewing be measured at the 30-second level, which would create true commercial ratings.
In November, when Nielsen first began offering the minute-by-minute ratings, President-CEO Susan Whiting wrote that the "general consensus of our clients is that additional sub-level studies are not needed at this time."
Regardless, minute-by-minute ratings, said Mr. Iffaldano, “are good for us as an industry. The more accountable we are the more seriously we proactively make sure TV advertising delivers an ROI, the better off we’ll be in the future.”