MBPT Spotlight: Nielsen Report Calls Single-Source Data 'The Holy Grail' Of Marketing

A new Nielsen report is touting the use of single-source data as "the holy grail" to help marketers run more effective and profitable advertising campaigns.

Single-source data measures media exposure and brand purchasing for the same people, allowing sales to be attributed to a particular ad platform with more precision.

The report, jointly authored by Nielsen executives Karthik Rao, managing director of media analytics; Mark Sneathen, senior VP, client consulting; Nada Bradbury, senior VP, product leadership; and Mike Nazzaro, CEO of Nielsen Catalina Solutions, goes on to say, "single-source databases allow companies to understand, at an individual, anonymized level, who is watching and not watching their ads, and who is buying and not buying their goods."

The report notes that marketers have used segmentation focus groups and surveys to identify audiences and methodologies such as data fusion to estimate sales lift of advertising. However, while those tools are an integral part of marketing and media planning today, they do not make it possible to specifically match any given individual's degree of media exposure to an ad campaign with his or her purchase behavior.

Marketers who consistently buy TV programming that reaches a general audience of only adults up to age 49 are missing out on about half the purchase dollars in some important categories, the report says, adding that big data will help marketers reach the consumers they might now be missing out on.

The report talks about how Nielsen uses single-source databases created and processed by third parties on the research company's behalf, so that the consumers remain anonymous. "These databases match watch data from our own media panels with two very large buy databases," the report says.

While the report clearly touts Nielsen's capabilities in use of single-source data, it also offers examples of the power of using big data to make marketing campaigns better targeted and more efficient.

"For consumer packaged goods products, we leverage a loyalty database that contains the frequent shopper purchases of 60 million households," the report states. "To cover categories beyond CPC, we leverage a set of data that covers, in the U.S., the vast majority of purchases made using credit cards, and about a third of all consumer deposit accounts. Today's coverage extends to nearly 125 million unique cardholders who account for nearly 1.4 billion credit transactions, and 55 million consumer accounts representing 1.2 billion debit transactions per month. Because a single-source database created from our media panel and this purchase data matches the actual viewing and purchase behavior of anonymous individuals, it is possible to calculate precisely the sales lift between those exposed to an ad campaign (and at what frequency) and those not exposed."

This data can also let a marketer know which shows are being watched by consumers that buy a competitor's brand.

Not to rain on its pure ratings data parade, Nielsen makes a point in the report that this type of single-source big data is not a substitute for traditional media ratings "but nevertheless provide enormously valuable additional information."

Uphill Climb For Single-Source Data
It's indisputable that marketers continue to look for ways to better and more efficiently target their best customers and more of them—along with their media agencies—are jumping into experimentation with single-source data. However, historically, marketers have been slow to react and embrace single-source data.

Nielsen and Arbitron worked on creating a single-source, national research service from 2005-08 that was known as Project Apollo. The service was based on Nielsen's Homescan technology for measuring consumer purchase behavior, combined with Arbitron's Portable People Meter system, measuring electronic media exposure of consumers.

Seven national advertisers — Pepsi, Walmart, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Unilever, S.C. Johnson and Pfizer — signed on as members of the Project Apollo steering committee.

However, after three years of development and testing, the project was terminated because not enough clients signed up to make it a sustainable program.

That was five years ago; times have changed, and seemingly more marketers are willing to jump into single-source marketing with the dollars necessary to make it work for them.

The latest Nielsen report suggests there are high hopes for single-source data's place in the ad industry. "Single-source data will lead to new ways of doing business in many parts of the advertising ecosystem," the report predicts. "Each participant — advertiser, agency or publisher — will need to come to grips with the skill sets involved in best exploring this new world. Audience behavior will be looked at in new ways. Different ways of aligning media inventory with new audience profiles to maximize efficiency and impact will emerge. When the technology and processes, which are still new, are mature, the cycle time on which advertisers can improve a campaign will shorten."

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