ABC Viewers Buy More Tissue -- And Why That Matters

This Upfront, Marketers Will Have More Access to Purchase-Based Media-Buying Data

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Want 2,000 gross rating points worth of paper-towel-brand switchers? It just got a lot easier.

Buying based on consumers' purchases rather than their ages or genders will take a leap forward with this upfront season, as Nielsen Catalina Solutions rolls out a self-service system that lets buyers and sellers run instant analyses to understand how heavily the "Modern Family" audience is weighted with facial-tissue-brand switchers, or how reliably repeat airings of "Braveheart" deliver heavy buyers of Pop-Tarts.

'Modern Family'
'Modern Family' Credit: ABC

Since 2010 NCS has done 1,400 such analyses with around 150 marketers, 50 agencies and 40 media companies. But the workload, expected to double this year, has outpaced what it can do on its own, said CEO Mike Nazzaro. So the joint venture of research firm Nielsen and supermarket-loyalty and data-analytics firm Catalina is launching a self-service version, AdVantics on Demand.

Mr. Nazzaro predicts a "tipping point" for purchase-based media-buying thanks in part to the arrival of the AdVantics tool. It will guide buying in 15 consumer-packaged-goods categories and 60 brands, including by Kellogg Co., Georgia-Pacific Corp. and Johnsonville Sausage. Media agencies Zenith and Compass Point Media also are using AdVantics, as are 10 TV networks.

NCS combines frequent-shopper data from 60 million households and set-top-box viewing data from 2.7 million households, yielding an overlap of around 664,000 households whose data are anonymous and seen only in aggregated form, the company said. The service also pulls data from Nielsen's People Meter TV-ratings panel and its Homescan consumer panel.

When NCS launched three years ago, its executives knew they could mash up the data, but they didn't know how meaningful that would be for TV. There was no obvious reason to believe heavy bratwurst or paper-towel buyers and brand switchers would flock disproportionately to a given show or network.

It turns out they do, for reasons that aren't always obvious. Entire networks even index differently for such things as heavy facial-tissue buyers, with ABC viewership 16% heavier than average for such folks and Fox 4% below average.

NCS data also indicate that some programs attract twice as heavy a complement of yogurt buyers than others. Shows that overindex for buyers of frozen entrees don't necessarily attract frozen-pizza buyers. And programs that attract heavy shampoo-conditioner buyers sometimes fare poorly with cosmetics buyers.

Douwe Bergsma, chief marketing officer of Georgia-Pacific, marketer of Brawny, Dixie and Quilted Northern, quickly discovered there are real and relevant differences in the purchase patterns of TV-program audiences.

"Why would a heavy paper-towel user watch different programs than the average population?" Mr. Bergsma asked. "We don't know what the why is."

In a sense, why doesn't matter, as long the data are correct and predictive. To get at that, NCS has incorporated historical data to create a stability score showing how predictably various programs, genres, networks and movies deliver buyer segments.

No matter the reason, winnowing the shows paper-towel buyers watch most predictably by using AdVantics has improved Georgia-Pacific's ROI, Mr. Bergsma said.

"The theory was confirmed in reality," he said. "The beauty with this is that you can track the same segments and later see if it changed the purchasing behavior and then improved your effectiveness and efficiency."

But the why is important for this reason: Eventually, Georgia-Pacific would like to understand why certain programs attract the buyers they do -- those lessons could guide more effective creative.

Mr. Nazzaro believes AdVantics has the potential to provide insights into creative approaches and offer post-buy tracking , which could form the basis of performance incentives for creative agencies.

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