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People … people who hate People Meters

Feb 11, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Boston TV stations may not be welcoming Nielsen People Meters with open arms, but ad agencies are eagerly waiting for the service-which they say provides more accurate ratings information.
Boston is the first local market in which Nielsen is ditching diaries and launching the People Meter service, which will begin April 25.
Boston TV stations have said they won’t sign up for the service because they think the People Meters are not accurate, and they say HUT levels, demos and ratings are down as much as 20 percent using them.
However, major ad agencies will continue subscribing to Nielsen and buying spots based on Nielsen’s figures, even if stations do not sign up. “The reason [stations] don’t want it is because their numbers are lower. It’s certainly more accurate, and they know it-everybody knows it,” said Laura Silton, senior vice president of local broadcast for LCI, a division of Universal McCann. “In the end, they will [sign up], because the agencies are going to use it.”’
Kathy Crawford, executive VP/director of local broadcast at Initiative Media, said she supports People Meters. “The real issue is going to be relating the diary method to the People Meter method and explaining to clients the difference between the two and how to recommend on a go-forward basis how we treat Boston vs. all 209 markets out there that do not have People Meters,” she said.
Ms. Crawford said the People Meters will virtually eliminate sweeps months, which is when diaries are filled out. “Stunting will no longer be the method which we use to project ratings,” Ms. Crawford said. “We’ll have 52 weeks, seven-days-a-week measurement, so we will actually know what is happening in the marketplace rather than [in] the few months diaries are used. It’s the best thing we could have locally, and we’ve been asking for this for years and years.”
At one of Boston’s largest ad agencies, Hill Holiday, Karen Agresti, VP/director of broadcast, said they are taking the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ stance on the issue. “The Four As research committee has said the People Meter methodology is the way to go,” Ms. Agresti said.
While ad agencies are embracing the new technology, Boston TV stations have nothing but complaints-it costs too much; it requires viewers to be active when they watch TV; and it provides ratings that are lower than they should be.
Research directors in the market have been meeting with each other to discuss their problems with People Meters.
General Manager Paul La Camera of ABC affiliate WCVB-TV said some stations would have to pay up to 80 percent more than what Nielsen charges now.
Plus, “It is skewing toward younger people who are more comfortable with the technology,” he said. “It is good, but at the same time it’s proving exclusionary to traditional television viewers who tend to be 35 to 54,” Mr. La Camera said. “We’re not going to sign anything until we’re totally comfortable [that] this is fully and accurately measuring the marketplace.”
WBZ General Manager Ed Goldman said the new system is too much work for the viewer, who has to punch in a code when watching TV. “The audience will get tired of having to re-enter their code every time they watch TV, and every 10 minutes it asks you to re-enter your code to maintain that you are still watching,” he said. “If everything worked perfectly, I would think this is an enhanced system over the current system, but the cons outweighs the pros.”
Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said Boston stations are just complaining because of money. “No one thought when we introduced this that the recession would hit as deep and run as long as it did,” Mr. Loftus said. “We’re not going to postpone it. It is a lot more [money], so maybe we’ve got to be more creative in our pricing.