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Nielsen to Seek Audit of Ad Measurement

Nielsen Media Research last week told the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau and the American Association of Advertising Agencies that it plans to seek accreditation for its TV-commercial ratings data from the Media Rating Council.

Nielsen announced those plans in separate letters to the CAB and the AAAA in response to the questions that the two trade groups have raised about the ratings service’s plans to measure viewership of TV spots.

The brouhaha is all over Nielsen’s plans, at the request of the broadcast networks, to produce average national commercial-minute ratings starting in November.

Both the CAB and the AAAA told Nielsen that its service that now tracks advertising activity and will be used to measure commercial viewership — Nielsen Monitor-Plus — needs to be accredited by the MRC, an impartial industry body.

Nielsen told both groups that it agreed and will begin the MRC audit and accreditation process for Monitor-Plus’s national television data.

“As is the case with any first-time audit, there will be many details to work out related to the scope, timing and other aspects of the audit,” Nielsen said. But that audit wouldn’t be done by November.

In a seven-page response to the CAB, Nielsen point-by-point addressed concerns that the cable organization talked about in a July 21 memo. One of the CAB’s greatest worries was how Nielsen plans to define a “commercial minute,” and how projectable viewership data for TV spots will be.

In its response to CAB, Nielsen said that on the definition issue the ratings company is evaluating two options. One definition would include minutes with 30 seconds or more of national commercial content. The other definition would be minutes with any amount of national commercial content, with the data weighted by the number of commercial seconds within the minute.

Nielsen is providing all of its national clients a copy of both its answer to the CAB as well as to the AAAA, according to Tom Ziangas, Nielsen Homevideo Index senior vice president of sales and marketing.

A Sept. 21 meeting is slated for cable networks, broadcasters, ad agencies and Nielsen to talk about the commercial-ratings issue, according to CAB vice president of research Ira Sussman.

“We will likely have follow-up questions and a meeting with Nielsen prior to the Sept. 21 meeting,” Sussman said. “We all want as much information as possible about what Nielsen can and can’t do before the September industry meeting so we can best discuss the alternatives.”