Ad-time ratings see gains

Deals with new metric go forward

Commercial ratings look to pick up traction during this year's upfront negotiations, with several big players saying they likely will make deals that include the new average commercial minute rating metric.

Top executives from buyers Group M and Starcom USA as well as ABC said Tuesday during an Association of National Advertisers forum that they will write at least some business based on average commercial minute ratings as opposed to the traditional program ratings that have been the basis of media negotiations for decades.

"I can't wait for the rest of the industry," Starcom USA CEO John Muszynski said in response to concerns that the TV industry might not be ready for a switch in time for this year's upfront negotiations. "We're going to push very aggressively for commercial ratings."

Starcom sealed three deals with commercial ratings guarantees during the most recent upfront; ABC ad sales president Mike Shaw said that he offered guarantees based on commercial ratings several times last year but was rebuffed. "We're in the position to go forward with it right now," he said.

Shaw also disclosed that ABC in its development meeting would discuss with advertisers "creative ways" the network will employ to help viewers stay with the commercial pods. He also said that ABC would begin to sell spots on ABC.com's streaming of shows during the upfront. Previously, those spots were sold outside of the upfront.

Group M chief investment officer Rino Scanzoni, another big media buyer, agreed that commercial ratings will become a big force this year and said that an average of the commercial ratings would be a sensible first step; after that, a gradual move to minute-by-minute and second-by-second ratings will allow advertisers to find out exactly how their spot did.

The talk of commercial ratings followed ANA president Bob Liodice's call to use commercial ratings as a currency. Kellogg Co. ad exec Andy Jung, whose 2003 article sparked renewed interest in commercial ratings, urged the ad community to come together to hammer out the issues surrounding using a minute-by-minute and, eventually, second-by-second system.

"Program ratings are a dinosaur," Jung said. He said that they are useful for networks to determine what shows are hits but don't help advertisers determine whether their commercials are working.

"Without this change, I don't know how long television can be sustainable," Jung said.

It's not the first time a call for industry action came out of the ANA's television advertising forum. In 2004, Carat North America CEO David Verklin called on the advertising community to discuss whether the upfront was broken. The result was the Network Upfront Discussion Group, which united networks, buyers and advertisers just before the 2004-05 upfront to decide that no, the upfront wasn't broken.
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