Skip to main content

C3 or C7? Maybe Neither, as Specific Spot Ratings Near

The continuing debate about whether media
buys should be made based on C3 ratings-the current standard, which includes
digital video recorder playback over three days-or C7, which incorporates seven
days of delayed viewing, misses a larger point. Neither of those measurements
are what advertisers who are footing the bill say they want.

In polls by the Association of National Advertisers, 82% of
members say they want to be able to get ratings for their own specific
commercials. The current C3 and C7 figures represent the average for all spots
aired during a program.

In 2011, Rentrak introduced its Exact Commercial Ratings
product, which is based on live viewing. Now, according to Bruce Goerlich,
chief research officer at Rentrak, the company is about a month away from
including DVR playback as part of that measurement. Rentrak will also produce a
C3 equivalent metric enabling marketers and agencies to compare the performance
of their spots to both the other spots in a program and the program itself.

The timing would make these new numbers available just in
time for use in this year's upfront negotiations. Selecting a currency for
media buys is between a network, the agencies and their clients. "I can't speak
to that," Goerlich said, adding, "I think you'll see some interesting things
happen in this upfront." Before joining Rentrak, Goerlich was on the agency
side as president of strategic resources for Zenith Optimedia North America.

Nine of the top 13 media agencies get ratings data from
Rentrak. Rentrak's TV Essentials national ratings, as well as its local StationView
Essentials, are in the process of being audited by the Media Rating Council,
which certifies the reliability of media measurement systems. The MRC does its
work on its own schedule and might not be done with its review before upfront
negotiations commence. But as Goerlich points out, the industry relied on C3 as
currency for a couple of years before it was accredited by the MRC.

C3 was adopted in 2007 as a compromise measure as the supply
of live network ratings points was being eaten away by DVRs. DVRs were also
encouraging ad skipping, and marketers wanted a way to make sure they were
paying for viewers who actually watched their spots and not for people who were
zipping or zapping them with their remote controls.

But advertisers say they want to know more than C3 is
telling them. Rentrak's Exact Commercial Ratings provides more information
about specific spots, but this could be a case of "be careful what you wish
for," because more data can mean more problems, or at least more to analyze.
For example, if the first spot in a pod draws a 20% higher audience, should
networks be able to charge 20% more for it? Or if a spot raises (or lowers)
ratings of the ads that follow it, should it get a better price (or pay a

Last month, Goerlich presented data from Rentrak's Exact
Commercial Ratings system to an ANA Commercial Ratings Summit. He showed how
the data helps clients improve ad effectiveness by allowing them to compare the
ratings of their spot to those of the program's commercial average, and to see
the effect a position within a commercial pod has on an individual ad.

In one example, Goerlich looked at one spot for Subway that
ran in CBS' 60 Minutes during October. The show had a 12.90 rating, while the
commercial registered a 14.60 rating. (Ratings for the other spots following
Subway in that pod ranged from a 14.05 to a 13.91.

The system also allows advertisers to look beyond age and
sex demographics to evaluate how well different networks are reaching specific
target audiences.

At the conference, using Exact Commercial Ratings was not
discussed because of antitrust concerns. "We just wanted to talk about what we
could do today in terms of our clients' ability to do strategy analysis with
it," Goerlich said. "In fact, a lot of those analyses that I included were
things our clients were looking at today."