Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mute that commerical, change television forever

A sea change is about to swamp your television shows, and the source of that tsunami might be a new Nielsen advertising metric to be unveiled this May. For years, television advertisers have complained about the lack of specific data on who views their ads. They have been forced to make decisions based on show viewership numbers, knowing full well that full bladders, the mute button and Tivo erode those figures substantially. Now Nielsen is tackling this question with new of data that measure advertisement viewership the same way they have measured the television audience. Commercial ratings will supposedly allow ad buyers to differentiate the number of eyeballs taking in their pitches from those watching the show in which they appear. TV networks such as CBS Corp. (NYSE:CBS) and the Walt Disney Corp. (NYSE:DIS)'s ABC along with advertising agencies are not so clearly enthused about this metric, though. If a few well-thought-of campaigns prove ineffective in holding the viewing audience, it could cast doubt on the entire industry. Nielsen, probably cognizant of how deeply their business is intertwined with the ad agency world, is taking a very cautious step into these waters. While advertisers want a second-by-second breakdown on viewership, something modern technology should allow Nielsen to capture, the new metric will only provide an average commercial viewership for each show. Once this door is breached, however, it's hard to imagine Nielsen long refusing the demands of advertisers for more discrete data. And if they don't like what they see, expect television to change quickly and dramatically. More about this later. I'm eager to see just how the new generation of entertaining advertisements stack up against one another. How does the snack fairy's numbers compare to the Energizer Bunny? if I had the ability, I would offer a huge prize to the first commercial that outdraws the show in which it appears.