In terms of sales impact per thousand consumers reached, mobile
fared best. But that was based on the relatively low reach of
mobile -- which on average reached only 2% of consumers in the
study -- so it had almost none of the diminishing returns that come
from reaching the same people multiple times, like other media, Ms.
Nielsen Catalina bases its research on audience-measurement
panels of Nielsen and other partners with sales data from shopper
loyalty programs collected by Catalina -- matching the same
households to measure what media they saw and what they bought.
The study only covers CPG, and deeper analysis suggests media
effectiveness may differ for other categories, because it even
differs within CPG categories and brands. Big, high-market-share
brands purchased frequently had the highest returns on media
spending. Brands with smaller market shares or purchased
infrequently had lower returns.
Some of the online display studies compiled for the research
date to 2004, while measurement of other media types is more
recent, with online video since 2007, TV since 2008, magazines
since 2011 and cross-media studies since 2013.
To test whether effectiveness of TV, magazines or digital media
had changed over time, Nielsen also compared media year by year --
meaning it looked at studies across all media only for 2013, 2014
and 2015 -- and found no meaningful trends in effectiveness, Ms.
Wood said. Overall ROAS is lower in the NCS database since 2011,
but that has to do more with the composition of brands and media
types in the studies -- for example more small brands and more
campaigns with digital video dragging down the average -- than with
decline in overall media effectiveness, she said.
The study had no way of looking at the impact of creative
effectiveness separately from media placement. But NCS did look at
impact of different creative types, with ads featuring promotional
appeals or coupons generally delivering higher returns than other
types of ads.
Ms. Wood expects lively debate as various media groups look to
turn the findings to their advantage. The data may suggest that
magazines are undervalued and digital video overvalued. But will
marketers defy trends by shifting funds back from one of the
hottest media of recent years to one that's seen steady
"If what I do changes behavior, I'd be thrilled," Ms. Wood said.
"That's certainly the takeaway, that there are opportunities here
to be looked at."
Much of the money that's been chasing digital video and driving
up its CPMs has been driven by the search to find millennial and
Gen Z audiences that have gotten harder to reach with conventional
TV or magazines. But regardless of the demographics, the Nielsen
Catalina data suggest there's plenty of sales impact to be had from
One of the more surprising findings to Ms. Wood was the
resilience of TV.
"What's interesting to me is that this happens at the scale that
these media have," she said. TV has "dramatically higher reach"
than the other media, averaging 57% of audiences in the Nielsen
Catalina study vs. an average of 35% for campaigns overall and less
than 10% for digital media, including only 2% for mobile. "Reach is
expensive," Ms. Wood said. "So it's interesting that no matter how
high its reach is, linear TV does a tremendous job of driving
The study is in line with findings from another study released
earlier this year by IRI and backed by Turner Broadcasting across
62 CPG brands representing $3 billion in annual media spending. IRI
found TV return on investment has remained steady the past five
years, despite challenges facing the medium, and that it generally
was better than digital. As with Nielsen Catalina, IRI found big
brands with high household penetration got by far the best