The expansion into the new market is an attempt by IAG to capture what it sees as an opportunity. While marketers and TV networks have increased their use of product integration, in part to combat ad-skipping personal video recorders, the lack of a standardized metric to evaluate return on investment is seen as a hurdle to broader acceptance of the practice.
"There is a range of marketers who aren't mega-marketers that could benefit from marketing-through-entertainment but don't have budget flexibility and can't afford to take risks," said Philip Guarascio, the former VP-general manager, marketing and advertising for General Motors Corp.'s North American operations, who serves on IAG's board of directors. "They might be more willing to try it if there was a better, [more timely] process to evaluate it."
IAG, a venture capital-backed company hatched in 1999 to measure TV commercial recall, will launch the In-Program Performance service, which employs a methodology to assess prime-time reality shows, sitcoms and sports programming. The data is collected via subsets of an online panel that consists of 400,000 members.
The service will measure all six broadcast networks as well as several broad-based, ad-supported cable channels such as USA Network, Time Warner's TNT and Viacom's MTV.
"The first question that typically comes up is what is the relationship between the product presence or in-show sponsorship and my 30-second commercial," said Alan Gould, IAG co-CEO. "We're in a very good position to be able to offer that [integrated] measure. ... We think this data will have profound impact on the current pricing model."
Tera Hanks, a partner at entertainment marketing agency Davie-Brown Entertainment, Los Angeles, said she is glad to see the industry move towards developing better ROI models, but also expressed caution. "There are probably six or seven companies offering data with methodologies that are sort of all over the place. It's critical for the industry that there emerges an accepted, industry-wide standard of measurement."
Mr. Gould said he sees networks as buyers of the service, in addition to marketers and agencies. "I think they'll want to understand different performance levels that are being attained. It might turn out that they're under-pricing."
But one Madison Avenue executive, who requested anonymity, said the networks might be threatened by the level of transparency that IAG and its competitors are trying to establish.
"If any of these companies comes up with an accepted, industry-wide standard, it could embolden more advertisers to try to weave their messaging into the program, which is not necessarily what the spots-in-pods crowd would want," the executive said. Broadcast networks contacted for the story either declined comment or were not available.