Old School, Meet New School ... and Rate It
Google and Nielsen said today they were partnering to bring advertisers exactly the information they want: precise demographic breakdowns and second-by-second ratings of advertisements. So far, this service is only available for ads that run on EchoStar Communications’ Dish Network, but with luck, hard work and persuasion, Google and Nielsen might finally convince cable operators and DirecTV to do what they should have done years ago: let their set-top boxes take advantage of technology and collect lots of valuable information. Yes, there’s a privacy element to be considered, but if people are willing to opt in and be measured, then by all means, they should go for it.
Cynthia Brumfield at IP Democracy says there’s absolutely no way cable operators will let that happen and she very well may be right. To me, however, this is where the measurement of advertising is inexorably going. I would take an ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em approach,’ which may mean that cable operators band together to create their own such service. TiVo also offers an ad measurement service that gleans data from set-top boxes, so this sort of thing is definitely already out there.
In a world that’s completely fragmented and where viewers can skip ads (I just spent all of last night doing that), it no longer makes sense to plunk down X dollars for Y CPMs. That’s why Johnson & Johnson opted to not participate in this year’s upfront. Advertisers have no idea where their money is going when they spend it in bulk and who those advertisements are reaching. The technology exists to closely glean information and track ads, and advertisers are demanding it.
What I think is heartening is that Nielsen – a company TV networks and stations regard as a monopoly they can’t get around — seems to understand where the business is going and is moving rapidly to keep pace with it. Last month, they launched Hey Nielsen!, a social networking/blog type site that lets people give their opinions. Nielsen hopes to use the site to assign a measure of engagement to TV shows, movies and songs. Engagement is something advertisers want to know more about. Now, the ratings giant is teaming with Google, arguably the company in the U.S. right now most on the vanguard of Web 2.0.
So perhaps cable operators won’t sign right up. So what? Advertisers will and that will eventually force others’ hands. The days of counting a show’s viewers are rapidly departing; the days of knowing exactly who watched each and every commercial are upon us.