Nielsen’s Jeff Wender on Changes in Local Market Measurement

By E.B. Moss Nielsen Archives

Given the changes in how we watch TV versus even just a few years ago, a prominent topic has been the way we now measure TV. This is especially true in how local markets are measured. I sat down with Jeff Wender (pictured above), Managing Director, Local Media, at Nielsen for a candid conversation on the subject.

E.B. Moss:  Jeff, in many local markets Nielsen is still using the same measurement mechanism. What are you doing to enhance local TV measurement? And why has it taken a while to introduce it?

Jeff Wender:  This past September we announced plans to retire the use of paper diaries to measure 140 television markets. You could easily say it’s long past due, were it not still the primary measurement for advertising transactions within these local markets. To make a change requires a best-in-class, reliable approach to ensure buyers and sellers make a transition with confidence and credibility to the market. We’re now at that point, and are looking forward to putting preliminary data in clients hands this year.

Moss:  What do these enhancements mean for broadcasters and agencies?

Wender:  Three things. Reliable measurement that delivers greater accuracy, measurement fidelity and stability for future planning purposes. Comprehensive measurement that casts a wide net to account for viewing in or out of the home, as well as across devices such as smart TVs, tablets, mobile phones and over-the-top video devices. And in-depth measurement that provides buyers and sellers the ability to transact on local, in-market buying behaviors, in addition to traditional demographic reach and frequency.

Moss:  What are the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating big data into local TV currency?

Wender:  Big data -- collected from set-top boxes, smart TVs and/or mobile devices -- is incredibly powerful based solely on the scale of data captured. But big data, despite its scale, has challenging blind spots and substantial inaccuracies that make it nearly unusable if not properly understood and corrected.  For example, can a satellite- or cable-subscribing home properly reflect viewing behavior of a household that views TV using an HD antenna?  No. Or, what happens if a set-top box accidentally attributes a time-shifted sporting event to the wrong time or channel?  How would a local broadcaster feel if this took place?  These are just two of many examples and challenges we’ve seen and been able to overcome using Nielsen’s panel homes to help address and correct these “blind spots.”

Moss:  It seems that your competitor is further ahead when it comes to using big data in local TV.  Is Nielsen playing catch up?

Wender:  Before joining Nielsen, I had the pleasure of working in the mobile phone business for more than a decade.  I can count with my fingers and toes how many leading mobile phone executives said Apple was too late to make even a dent in the smartphone business.  How’d that turn out?  In actuality, Nielsen has been working with big data for as long as anyone. We use it in Nielsen Return-on-Investment (ROI) measurement products today, and have been working on now-patented approaches to address the gaps and deficiencies I mentioned earlier for audience reach measurement.  We feel it’s important to take advantage of it when ready and right.

Moss:  With increasing TV fragmentation, what are some of Nielsen’s challenges and opportunities?  How is Nielsen measuring local TV across digital platforms?

Wender:  It’s amazing that consumers are watching more video content than ever before. The challenge is the multitude of devices and locales in which they consume it. We’re fortunate in that Nielsen has developed a series of tools that allow us to capture all types of viewing, regardless of platform or commercial model.

We have technology -- our portable people meter -- that ensures viewing in bars, restaurants and airports is properly reflected.  Different measurement solutions allow us to include mobile device and over-the-top viewing using a small piece of software that sits within apps and websites -- all capturing essential demographic information, and all with privacy structures built-in.

Moss:  Digital players are making the case that they can deliver more specific and more relevant audiences than traditional media.  This effort has placed significant pressure on local TV stations and many advertisers and agencies are thinking digital first.  What can local broadcasters do to better compete with digital and begin to recapture advertising dollars?

Wender:  The first step is having a strong, comprehensive presence in the local community which includes a powerful digital presence of their own.  Most are far and away the leading brand and destination when it comes to in-market news.  They have the ability to compete directly for these digital dollars, so long as they’re being measured and can effectively reflect their audiences.  All this said, advertisers continue to seek local market reach. There is no better place than local broadcasting to find these audiences at scale.

Moss:  Broadcasters are always asking for more data. How should local TV stations leverage data to demonstrate the value of their audiences?

Wender:  Advertisers are interested in register rings.  These come today from in-market buyers and in the future from aspirational consumers.  Broadcasters can use Nielsen measurement ratings to demonstrate reach of the right audiences, while taking advantage of in-depth, in-market consumer behavior data to find those ready to purchase today.  We’ve recently acquired a new set of tools called Rhiza that will help broadcasters unearth these data-driven stories and share with interested advertisers.

Moss:  Local ad buying is still based on cost per points. Do you see a day where the industry will move to impression-based media buying?

Wender:  We see all media evolving to impressions-based buying and, in many cases, our new measurement system will help in that transition. This is ultimately a decision buyers and sellers will have to agree upon, but we’re ready today to support it.

Moss:  What’s the role of programmatic in the local buying and selling process?

Wender:  Programmatic buying will grow in local; no different than in national or digital advertising as it helps to streamline costs and efficiency. The question is, how will buyers and sellers value ad inventory within these systems? Nielsen is well prepared to offer traditional and progressive approaches to manage commercial transactions.

Moss:  What’s the advantage of using Nielsen data? How can it help broadcasters grow their business?

Wender:  It’s trusted as the currency for local and national advertising transactions.  It’s independent (see: trusted.)  It casts the widest net in terms of capturing broadcaster’s audiences and an ad’s reach -- in the living room, on a laptop, in a car or at a restaurant or a bar.  Seriously, we believe it’s the best-in-class source for local, in-market consumer behavior insights, and we’re getting ready to introduce the biggest set of local measurement enhancements in 40 years.

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