As Nielsen begins implementing some of the biggest changes to its TV ratings methods since the introduction of the people meter, the world’s biggest media buyers say the researcher is ignoring a vital part of the mix that is putting billions of TV advertising dollars at risk: the paper-and-pencil diary that is still the currency for most of America’s local TV markets.
In a white paper being released this morning, the American Association of Advertising Agencies is calling on Nielsen to take immediate steps to address the eroding performance of its diary sample, which will still be the basis for billions of dollars in local TV buys — even after Nielsen implements its other methodological changes, some of which are intended to improve local TV audience measurement.
The white paper characterizes 4As members as being “cautiously optimistic” about those changes, which include controversial modeling techniques that will estimate audiences in non-people meter markets based on data from people meter markets, but said they still need to be assessed by the industry and validated and accredited by industry self-regulatory ratings watchdog, the Media Rating Council. Assuming that happens, the 4As task force says audience ratings in more than half of all TV markets will still be dependent on paper diaries, which are growing increasingly unstable and unreliable due to the hyper-fragmentation of TV viewing options.
“The diary was designed decades ago, when the media environment was not nearly as complex as it is today,” Jon Cogan, director of investment research and insights at Omnicom’s Annalect unit, told MediaDailyNews during an advanced briefing on the white paper. Cogan, who is co-chair of the 4As task force, said that assuming Nielsen successfully implements its other proposed changes, more than half of all TV markets will still depend on diaries.