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An industry trade group is again calling out Nielsen for what it perceives as flaws in the company’s measurement.
The Video Advertising Bureau, which represents TV networks and ad firms, asks in a letter for Nielsen to stop any further “big data” releases regarding the ad market after finding what is says are several inconsistencies in the first month’s worth of such data. Nielsen disputes those findings.
And in a devil-you-know situation, the VAB is asking Nielsen to give ad buyers and sellers clarity ahead of the upfront season by relying on its traditional dataset from its national panel — which the VAB has also criticized heavily over the past year.
“The VAB had high hopes for Big Data being a big leap forward in what Nielsen’s measurement and currency can bring to marketers, but after in-depth analysis it’s clear to us that this first data set is rife with serious problems,” Video Advertising Bureau president and CEO Sean Cunningham said in a statement. “Taking the time to right the wrongs now is in the TV buy/sell marketplace’s best interests and gives Nielsen time to fulfill their promise of coming to market with a more accurate solution.”
In its own statement, Nielsen says it’s “deeply disappointed that these concerns would be raised in the press rather than in direct discussion and collaboration with us.”
“We have been, and remain committed to working with our clients to convey a deep understanding of this comprehensive offering,” the statement reads. Up until this letter was issued, we have not received questions from the VAB. Additionally, a trade group associated with traditional TV channels is an incomplete and biased subset of the video marketplace. We prefer to work openly with the entire industry to get to the best measurement solution.
“Furthermore, based on feedback across buyers and sellers we made the decision to allow either data set to be used for trading in the fall. We have addressed client concerns around the proximity of impact data to upfronts and our approach will enable buyers and sellers to trade against big data plus panel metrics if they so choose, while giving our clients runway to adapt to this launch.”
The VAB’s request to halt the big data release is the latest salvo in an ongoing dispute between the long-time ratings provider and some of its clients. The Media Rating Council, an industry oversight board, suspended Nielsen’s accreditation for national TV ratings in September following complaints from clients about undercounting viewers in 2020 and early 2021. While Nielsen ratings are still the currency of the TV ad business, media companies have pressed forward with finding their own solutions with other measurement firms as well.
Nielsen’s “big data” initiative is meant to provide more detailed information on which viewers are watching which programs (and their commercials), going beyond the usual demographic breakdowns in the company’s familiar national ratings. The first such set, for September 2021, was provided to clients in February.
In a letter to Nielsen CEO David Kenny, the VAB says after examining the September data, it found a number of “illogical” results, including the big data revealing gains among all viewers and adults 18-49 but simultaneous declines among adults 25-54; “wild swings in comparative gender results” across several dayparts and types of programming; and disparities between the “big data” and the traditional Nielsen panel measurements.
The trade group also asks Nielsen to disclose how the new dataset was created and how to compare it to the company’s more familiar numbers.
“We are happy to make the VAB’s [measurement innovation task force] available to Nielsen for demonstrating their fixes of Big Data. Given the level of immersion our MITF heads of TV research have into census level/big data measurement and currency solutions (from at least a half dozen major research companies), we will bring both objectivity and client data expertise to the industry imperative of bringing big data ever-more into TV measurement,” the letter concludes.
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