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Group M's Gotlieb Rejects Ad-Specific Ratings, Favors Consistency

June 14, 2012

By Steve McClellan, MediaPost

Irwin-Gotlieb-AAre commercial-specific TV ratings the way to go in the future?

Not according to GroupM Global CEO Irwin Gotlieb, who used part of his time on stage at the Advertising Research Foundation’s measurement conference Tuesday to dismiss the idea as impractical. He called it a step that could potentially undermine the national TV ratings system.  

Gotlieb weighed in on a debate that began earlier this spring when several networks -- poised for the upfront -- floated the idea of shifting from the current C3 ratings system, which measures average audiences to commercials during programs including three days of DVR playback viewing, to a C7 system, which would add four more days of playback.

The suggested move to C7 was countered with a renewed call from the Association of National Advertisers to shift to a ratings system that measures audiences to specific commercials. According to Bill Duggan, group executive vice president of the ANA, there is a groundswell of member support for commercial-specific ratings that would tell advertisers "how many people actually had the opportunity to see my spot."

Gotlieb countered that given the limitations of the sample methodology Nielsen bases its TV ratings system on, a call for commercial-specific ratings is not realistic. With sample methodology, Gotlieb said, “the more granular you get, the higher your standard error goes. Moving from an average commercial rating to either a pod or specific commercial rating would blow out the standard error and significantly destabilize the trading currency.”

No measurement system will be “absolutely accurate,” Gotlieb added. The industry needs to “get over the notion” that exact measurements are worthwhile pursuits. There are too many greater and more realistic issues that need to be dealt with in the measurement space, he said.

On his wish list are two categories: “silo busting and effectiveness.”

“All of our legacy research and measurement has focused on the individual media type or the delivery device,” he said. “We need much more consistency and cross-device measurement.” In the video realm, “we can’t have siloed measurement on the big screen vis-a-vis the computer or tablet or smartphone,’’ he said.  “It’s all video. We need to understand reach and frequency dynamics and quantitative metrics. We can’t have vastly different protocols by” individual delivery platform.

As to effectiveness, fundamental questions still need to be addressed, said Gotlieb. Among them: “What happens in the path from awareness to purchase? We know that consumers are multi-tasking, particularly when they are watching television. How are they using their secondary devices? How do we deal with search, social, and tracking data in closed ecosystems? What about cross channel attribution?"

For now, “we’re going to be suffering through a very awkward stage. We’re going to have massive growth in the volume of data," he notes. "Most of it will be inconsistent, if not outright discrepant. We’ll find ever more creative ways to misuse it and get ourselves into trouble. “

But the payoff, “if we get it right, will be enormous,” he concluded. “It will redefine the practice of marketing in general and the practice of media specifically.”

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