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New Nielsen ratings system knocks the spots off online ad targeting

So who said audience measurement had to be boring?

Nielsen, the world’s number one provider of the stuff, has just launched something called Online Campaign Ratings. Now I’d be the first to admit that doesn’t sound the most riveting event since Janet Jackson last maladjusted her wardrobe in public.

But stay with me. This is a well and truly iconoclastic product. No, really.

It knocks for six all those vapid, complacent notions we had about online display ads being somehow better targeted than the mass-market ones featured on television.

What NOCR, which launches to US media buyers on August 15, does is combine anonymously-sourced US Facebook data with traditional TV-style ratings reporting in a novel way.

The jaw-dropping conclusion to be drawn from the new metric, according to Nielsen president of media products and advertiser solutions Steve Hasker, is that just 30% of branded display advertising aimed at specific age- and gender-defined demographic targets is hitting its target. Compared with mass market campaigns that are 75% efficient.

Aside from bringing joy to the heart of Tess Alps and her friends at TV-advertising ginger group Thinkbox, the new metric also has implications for niche and specialist online publishers. Their ratecards will stiffen as the flim-flam stuff targeted at general audiences is exposed for what it is.

Early heads-up from media specialists, such as managing director EMEA at Essence Joseph Leon (quoted in New Media Age), is positive:

Facebook’s pervasive reach means that any campaign able to overlay Facebook profile data will benefit from a huge, natural sample group, overcoming two of the key issues with previous solutions: sample sizes and the potential bias of an incentive-based panel. I think it also highlights the inaccuracies and frankly debatable effectiveness of some of today’s campaign planning methodologies, which regularly depend on incentive-based panel solutions, to identify target audience media consumption.

Dominic Finney, co-founder of digital benchmark specialist FaR Partners, is also upbeat but a tad more cautious in his outlook:

The challenge would appear to be partnering with just Facebook, which potentially could limit Nielsen’s OCR’s findings as it will only have Facebook as a third party provider and Facebook currently only reaches around half of US users online.

Only a half of all US users online, eh Dominic? Not a bad start though, since Comscore, Kantar and the rest of the gang are going to have to play rapid catch-up. And, given that Nielsen has signed an exclusive deal with Facebook and has promised other third-party metric providers are on the way, that sounds to me like a clear market advantage.

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