Measuring TiVo's footprint

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Market researcher IRI is linking with TiVo and a secret consortium of package-goods marketers in the biggest research project to date measuring how digital-video-recorder technology affects advertising return on investment and purchase patterns.

Information Resources Inc. and TiVo are giving free DVR service to more than 2,300 households in IRI's BehaviorScan test markets in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Eau Claire, Wis.; Midland, Texas; and Pittsfield, Mass. The DVRs will track how and whether viewers in DVR households skip ads in recorded and live programming and whether it changes purchase patterns.

Most TiVo ad deals now include a research component. And some marketers, such as Procter & Gamble Co., have been conducting their own research on TiVo's impact for as long as four years. But this is the first syndicated multi-marketer project and the first to track how DVRs affect purchase behavior, said Kimber Sterling, director-advertising and research sales for TiVo.

The ambitious IRI-TiVo project launches amid growing concern about DVR impact on advertising. A survey released last week by the American Advertising Federation showed 76% of marketer and agency executives surveyed believe DVRs will have a significant impact on the future of advertising-ranging from an increase in nontraditional ad formats to causing the "death of the 30-second spot." That's up sharply from only 58% who anticipated such consequences last year.

Forrester Research projects DVR penetration will reach 41% of U.S. households by 2009. And IRI CEO Scott W. Klein projects DVRs will be a hot holiday consumer-electronics item this year as the technology is added to a growing number of devices, including personal computers.

Mr. Klein called the consortium of package-goods players bankrolling the project "a real powerhouse collection" but wouldn't divulge any details of the group's makeup. The group includes a mix of clients of IRI's scanner-data service and those who use rival VNU's ACNielsen for scanner data.

likely participant

A likely participant is P&G, which began studying patterns of TiVo users in 2000, finding ad-skipping increases as people use DVRs longer. Additional P&G research later indicated that ad recall among TiVo users who fast-forward through ads was similar to that of people who watch ads at normal speeds, according to people familiar with the research. A P&G spokeswoman said the company has been taking a look at the IRI-TiVo service but said, "It's too early to discuss our involvement."

Meanwhile, P&G has been pushing to develop a consortium around a different project, the Apollo service from VNU and Arbitron, which would measure marketing ROI by combining ad exposure data from Portable People Meters with consumer purchase data from ACNielsen's HomeScan panel. P&G invited 50 to 60 executives of package-goods and other marketers as well as agencies to its Cincinnati headquarters last week to talk about Apollo.

`Apollo 2'

Erwin Ephron, principal of the media consultancy Ephron Papazian & Ephron, jokingly dubbed the IRI-TiVo offering "Apollo 2," noting that both create a single-source database that could track some of the same things. The Arbitron-VNU service is able to measure exposure to radio and possibly other media. But the IRI-TiVo offering has the advantage of "a little cleaner" system for collecting purchase data, he said, since BehaviorScan collects purchase data automatically at point-of-sale rather than having consumers scan purchases at home.

In each case, one of the big advantages is the ability to compare behavior of households exposed to ads with those that aren't.

BehaviorScan is set up to deliver different addressable ads and, in some cases, different programming to different households in its markets, allowing for controlled tests. In all, about 15% of IRI's BehaviorScan households nationwide are participating, but only in four of five markets, with no concentration in any one market large enough to bias results for other types of tests with the panels, Mr. Klein said.

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