Advertisers Want Nielsen Fixes

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The American Association of Advertising Agencies is preparing a letter to Nielsen Media Research strongly encouraging the ratings service to address the sampling issues the Media Ratings Council raised last month when it denied accreditation for the New York "Local People Meter" service.

The letter, sources say, will stop short of asking Nielsen to delay the rollout of the LPM.

Instead, the Four A's will urge Nielsen to comply with the MRC requests as soon as possible so that New York can get accredited. Network and station officials praised the Four A's move as a positive because, up to this point, it's been the sell-side that has done all the complaining.

"Just having the Four A's acknowledge that there are problems that Nielsen has to fix is big news," says one network research executive.

"And it's good news, because Nielsen is always playing one side against the other."

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that the MRC's accreditation denial in New York was based on an Ernst & Young audit of 40 homes in the sample that showed that two of the 12 homes listed as African American actually were not, while two of 27 homes listed as Spanish speaking were mislabeled.

The audit also cited abnormally high levels of unusable data flowing from African American homes in the sample, which is probably due to poor training on how to use the LPM equipment properly, said some Nielsen clients.

The letter may be moot.

Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus told Reuters Tuesday that the problems identified by Ernst & Young have been fixed or are in the process of being fixed. He also said fault rates typically are higher in African American and Hispanic homes because they tend to have larger families. "The more television sets in the home," he told Reuters, "the more metering equipment, the more opportunity for something to go wrong, and that's just a fact of life."