P&G CUTS LOCAL TV ADS, SLAMS NIELSEN DIARIES: COMPANY SAYS RESEARCH TOOL IS NOT VIABLE; SEEKS PEOPLE METERS

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Procter & Gamble Co., blasting the "poor quality" of the data from Nielsen Media Research's TV diaries, is slashing its local TV spending dramatically.

In a rare attack on a vendor by the world's largest advertiser, a P&G spokeswoman said, "With media fragmentation, the diary is just not a viable research technique anymore."

Nielsen uses diaries to measure TV ratings in most of the nation's 211 local TV markets, and it's the only way the company gathers demographic data for those markets.

P&G "would like to see people meters in local markets" instead of diaries, the spokeswoman said.

Putting its money where its mouth is, P&G reduced local TV spending from July to October 1998-by $3 million, $5 million, $3 million and $6 million in each of those months, compared with 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

SPOT TV SPENDING SLIDES

In October 1997, for example, P&G spent $16 million in spot TV; in October '98 its spending was $10 million, down 37.5%.

For 1997, the last full year of reported data by CMR, P&G was the nation's fifth-largest spender in spot TV, buying $197 million worth of time.

"The P&G reduction continued through the fourth quarter and continues here in the first quarter," said an executive at TV rep Blair Television. "I'd say they've cut maybe half their local spending."

CMR data are not yet available for November, December and 1999.

P&G said some of the slack has been taken up by the use of other media in local markets, such as radio, newspaper and outdoor advertising (AA, Jan. 25).

WEHLING'S WARNING

Last April, Bob Wehling, P&G's global marketing, consumer and market knowledge and government relations officer, told the annual convention of the Television Bureau of Advertising that "Without [local] people meters, current spot data cannot be processed and evaluated, which means the opportunity for national advertisers to choose spot television will inevitably diminish."

After Mr. Wehling's speech, an executive of a major TV station group is said to have traveled to P&G's Cincinnati headquarters to convince P&G local people meters weren't necessary. Some stations fear their ratings will go down with people-meter measurement, and they also don't want to pay for converting to their use.

One station executive said P&G VP-Media Rich Wilson "has said much of the money will likely come back if we adopt people meters."

AN AWKWARD POSITION

P&G's stance puts Nielsen in an awkward position. On one hand, the company welcomes support for a local people-meter rollout; on the other hand, Nielsen doesn't concede its diaries deliver poor data.

Responding to an explanation of P&G's comments about diaries and local people meters, Jack Loftus, senior VP-communications for Nielsen, said: "Clearly, if what you say is correct, then P&G is saying that diary measurement is not for them. We agree with P&G that the people meter is the gold standard for television audience measurement."

Nielsen is trying to get backing for a local people-meter test later this year or early in 2000. One proposal is to work with Time Warner Cable to run a test

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