Nielsen Primes ‘Total Audience’ Push, But Publishers Have Questions

KellyANielsen is pushing a total audience measurement designed to quantify audience and campaigns across screens, but it’s unclear whether it’s a service, platform or just a new marketing pitch.

Kelly Abcarian, SVP of product architecture, described the total audience measurement rating as an ongoing development for the company, building off of its existing data structure.

“It is a real data offering that gives you a total audience number across screens and content regardless of ad load,” she told AdExchanger, adding that the initiative will bring more flexibility to measuring “the viewing we all know is happening outside the three-or- seven-day window the industry trades on.”

This includes assessing audience in apps on connected devices or streaming video.

Nielsen said the end goal of “Total Audience” is to combine television ratings with Digital Content Ratings, announced in conjunction with Adobe in October, and ultimately complete the grid with over-the-top and connected devices, “a key focus for us in 2015,” according to Abcarian.

Yet, some publishers aren’t convinced that Nielsen can execute. Beth Rockwood, SVP of market resources and ad sales research at Discovery Communications, said at the TV Of Tomorrow Show on Tuesday that despite growth in streaming and over-the-top services like Amazon, Netflix and Roku, there are major limitations with measurement.

“Nielsen talked about measuring total television viewing, but the technologies that must be employed and permissions that must be granted to [do this] are difficult,” Rockwood said. “We need help with that, and right now, Nielsen can’t help us with that.”

But Nielsen is aware of the technical limitations in trying to measure audience across screens.

For instance, measuring viewership on video on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon requires an audio signature-based capture as opposed to a TV watermark. Cross-platform reporting requires tags on the digital side and watermarks for the TV side, each a very distinct process Nielsen says it’s tackling.

On Monday, it revealed a multiyear agreement with Extreme Reach, which tracks online video campaigns and helps traffic TV and digital ad creative. Through this deal, Nielsen will integrate its TV and OCR ratings into Extreme Reach’s advertiser dashboard, essentially putting all campaign results in one environment.

“The time and pressure of trying to get a campaign live – the coordination of that type of thing is very challenging and so this deal with Extreme Reach helped make the process much more turnkey,” Abcarian said. “This puts our watermark into nearly every TV creative.”

As a point of reference, Extreme Reach ingests 5,000 commercials per day and works with 7,000 national and local TV stations and cable MSOs.

Nielsen has made other attempts to upgrade its offering, seemingly answering critics who claim it only accounts for age/sex demographics in its products. For instance, Nielsen and Simulmedia forged a deal allowing Nielsen to sync Simulmedia’s set-top box data with its standard people meter. The company has also expressed interest in new data sets and is rumored to be in the running to buy Datalogix, a data firm that links online advertising with offline sales.

Nielsen, for more than 50 years, used TV viewing panels to measure audience reach, but addresses the inherent coverage gaps that result from device fragmentation and convergence.

“We’ll continue to ensure our panel is very representative of consumer behavior,” said Abcarian. “We’re considering other behavioral attributes, and creating models around co-viewing and device sharing.”


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