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Hoping to eliminate contests and promotions that temporarily inflate local TV ratings, the American Association of Advertising Agencies is pushing to abolish quarterly sweeps periods.

The Four A's just made public a letter sent to Nielsen Media Research last month after analysis by the Four A's local-buying committee earlier this year found as many as 250 stations in May ran watch-and-win contests.


"These contests are absurd and the sweeps ratings are always inflated," said Jean Pool, exec VP-North American media services at J. Walter Thompson USA, New York.

The Four A's letter suggested 13-week averages reported four times a year and said, "The plan should be cost-effective and should not interrupt ongoing efforts toward increasing sample size and improving response rates."

Nielsen is just now completing a 15% total increase in diary volume in its 211 measured markets. It also has plans for an additional sample size increase of 35% that would require passing along a 2%-to-3% cost increase to TV stations.


"Stations have always done this and saved their best programs for the sweeps, but this is getting out of hand," said O. Burtch Drake, president-CEO of the Four A's. "Everybody thinks the sweeps data is not reliable-it's no secret in our industry. This is not exactly a new request, it's mainly an economic thing" in terms of execution.

While Nielsen has not formally responded to the letter yet, a spokesman indicated support for the plan mentioned in it.

"We think it's a great idea and a constructive step if we can get the entire industry to be supportive," he said. "But you've got to get a consensus among [stations] that this is something that they want."

No details have been hammered out on what each option would cost. Other possibilities, said the spokesman, included adding an extra week of research in each quarter, as well as additional months-something many major markets already have.

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