Association of National Advertisers Join Protest of Nielsen's Metric Switch

Disagrees with Measurement Firm's Decision to Drop Live Local TV Data

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NEW YORK ( -- The battle for local-media measurement has intensified in the last 24 hours, with the Association of National Advertisers now lobbing a protest against Nielsen's recent decision to incorporate DVR users into its official estimates of how many people watch programming on local TV stations. Just a week ago, the media committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies sent a blistering letter to Nielsen protesting the switch.

In a statement released Tuesday, the ANA's Television Advertising Committee said it "strongly opposes" Nielsen's recent decision to change the stream of reporting data made available for local markets. Nielsen has said it will eliminate a stream of data tracking live viewers in favor of one that tracks viewers who watch programs live or within 24 hours of their airing.

The ANA said it opposed the move because many marketers and ad-buying firms use live-only data as a basis for purchasing on-air inventory. The ANA also said it believed the new data would result in "overstated" levels of commercial viewing, "as local ratings are for programs and not commercials and therefore do not take into consideration commercial skipping in DVR playback."

The entire debate takes place because local TV is not measured based on now-standard "C3" data, which measures the number of viewers who do not skip past ads when watching TV and includes viewers who watch shows using a DVR up to three days past the original air date. At present, technological issues, such as trying to measure cable viewers who watch ads inserted on air by a cable systems operator, make local-TV more difficult to monitor on such a basis.

Meanwhile, national TV viewership has made use of commercial ratings since the start of the 2007-2008 TV season, a major step forward for advertisers who wanted more granular data on the numbers of viewers who watched the ads that support the TV shows they tune in to watch.

In a statement, ANA President-CEO Bob Liodice said the organization "would welcome the opportunity to serve as a bridge for the industry to find a mutually beneficial solution for local ratings for advertisers, agencies and the media."

Meanwhile, Nielsen defended its decision-making process and said it would prefer buyers and sellers determine marketplace standards.

"Given the growing penetration and usage of DVRs, we believe the research is undeniable in suggesting that Live Only ratings no longer offer an accurate picture of the television viewing that occurs on an individual day," said Sara Erichson, president-media client services, North America, at Nielsen, in a letter responding to a previous complaint from Marc Goldstein, a prominent media-buying executive at WPP's GroupM who also helms the media policy committee at the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Ms. Erichson said Nielsen had over five months "listened hard and extensively to all of our clients...both buyers and sellers...and believe that we have a very clear understanding of both sides' points of view."

"We urge buyers and sellers to work together to determine what data set(s) they collectively need from Nielsen to transact business, mindful of the changed viewing environment which has impacted audiences associated with traditional measurement," Ms. Erichson added. "Currently it seems to us that there are no conversations taking place between buyers and sellers along those lines and we hope that this might change in the coming weeks."

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