Advertisers press Nielsen for spot data

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Advertisers are pressuring Nielsen Media Research to provide them with commercial ratings data that could change the way billions of dollars of TV advertising time is sold.

The Association of National Advertisers threw its support behind an initiative from the American Association of Advertising Agencies to gain true commercial ratings from Nielsen. The 4A's media-research committee has asked Nielsen to provide detailed audience data from last April and October in 30-second increments so it can analyze commercial ratings trends. Nielsen's data currently focuses on program ratings.

"[Nielsen] needs to do more to refine the process. We spend 50% of the ad dollars around the world and yet other countries such as the United Kingdom and Vietnam have better knowledge of commercial ratings than we do," said Bill Duggan, senior VP, ANA. A spokesman for the 4A's said he could not comment on ongoing negotiations. The group's media research committee is scheduled to meet with Nielsen on Aug. 19 to discuss the issue.

The involvement of the ANA puts additional pressure on Nielsen to respond to requests for more detailed data on commercial viewing.

"We have not yet come up with a plan to offer syndicated ratings by commercial," said Anne Elliot, Nielsen VP-communications. "It is something that advertisers and agencies continue to discuss with us."

Media agencies currently buy data from Nielsen in 15-minute increments, which makes it hard for them to know who's tuning out during ad breaks.

high costs a problem

While Nielsen does provide minute-by-minute data via its Npower system, agencies argue that it's difficult to crunch the vast amounts of data that would enable them to extrapolate trends and variance between program viewing and commercial viewing. Npower technology was designed to help TV programming executives track information such as how well a program retains its lead-in audience, but the data is not gathered in a way that makes it easy to figure out commercial ratings. The high cost of minute-by-minute data has also been a problem for agencies.

One media agency executive said audience information in 30-second increments would provide a more accurate picture of commercial viewing.

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