"The next logical step to move toward dramatic and productive change in the local TV arena is to continue to push Nielsen to step up their rollout plan to install people meters for local audience measurement since the diary has severe limitations and flaws," said Kaki Hinton, Warner-Lambert's director of advertising services.
If local people meters aren't rolled out in a timely manner, "then some advertisers may want to evaluate their spot TV investment," Ms. Hinton said.
Indeed, Procter & Gamble Co. also has been critical of the diary system and has cut its spot spending as a result (AA, Feb. 8).
ANA MEETING SPARKS MOVE
Warner-Lambert decided to take a leadership role in urging the move to local people meters after Ms. Hinton learned more about Nielsen's local TV measurement methodology through her involvement with the Association of National Advertisers. She's chairman of the ANA's TV committee, and Cathy Wilcher, Warner-Lambert's director of media, is on a subcommittee examining local TV measurement.
"Advertisers, through my ANA committee, have gotten more involved in pushing the needle and trying to get Nielsen to improve audience measurement," Ms. Hinton said, adding that the committee has become better educated about the flaws in the diary system.
Nielsen has been urging a move to local people meters. However, one media executive with an advertiser said the researcher does not yet have a business plan in place on this.
"Yes, Nielsen has plans to do things, but no business plan," the executive said, "so I don't see anything really happening in the next 18 months."
Jack Loftus, Nielsen senior VP-communications, conceded there's no business plan but added: "We have talked to the ANA and Kaki about it. We are encouraged by her support of local people meters and her willingness to urge advertisers to support their rollout."
NO COMPLAINTS IN 43 MARKETS
As to shortcomings in its diary system, Mr. Loftus said there have been no complaints about diary undercounts in the 43 markets that also have Nielsen TV set meters. He noted that 75% or more of spot TV dollars are spent in those markets.
"I'm not aware of any issue the ANA has raised regarding diary undercounts in the metered markets," he said. "While we agree that people meters are the gold standard, we have made improvements in the diary system."
Though Nielsen has said repeatedly it wants to replace its diary system with local people meters, there are a number of obstacles.
One is funding, and Nielsen hopes that may be solved by getting cable TV operators to ante up a substantial amount for a people meter rollout. The next barrier is local TV stations, many of which say they have no interest in local people meters because, in all likelihood, the more accurate measurement will mean their ratings will go down and cable networks' ratings will go up.
Nielsen has told some clients that it would like to experiment soon with local