Court TV Makes Case for ‘CPI Viewer’

Apr 5, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Halfway through the 2004-05 cable upfront TV sales season, some interesting pitches have emerged. All are designed to differentiate the presenting network from the ever-expanding clutter of advertising options and get planners and buyers involved enough with its programming that they actually make a buy.
Now substitute the word “consumers” for “planners and buyers” and that is the case being made by Court TV.
Recognizing that the relatively higher involvement its viewers have with its programming might represent a media planning advantage, Court TV has developed its own mathematical formula for measuring the involvement viewers have with the ads that appear in its TV shows. Debbie Reichig, senior VP of sales strategy for Court TV, acknowledged that the formula uses relatively simple math, but she said that is what makes it both accessible and believable.
It’s essentially a two-step process. The first step uses conventional Nielsen data to index how much Court TV viewers are exposed to the commercials airing during its shows. The second step-using a variety of other syndicated studies, including those from Mediamark Research, Simmons and Knowledge Networks-the Court TV formula computes the degree of involvement those viewers had with the ads themselves.
The result, said Ms. Reichig, is a new advertising sales metric that Court TV is touting as the CPI, or cost per involved viewer. While the research is not standardized enough that Court TV will guarantee it or that most agencies would post off of it, it is stable enough to be used in media planning decisions, Ms. Reichig said.
“It’s a smart way for them to go,” said Jane Lacher, VP, consumer context planner, at MediaVest. “It’s teaching the planners to think of them in a very specific way. It’s saying we have a dedicated audience, and we’re so sure we have a dedicated audience that we’re even going to measure it in terms of a CPI. For a planner, if Court TV is popping with your target audience, this is a no-brainer.”
TV `Optimizers’
It’s not the first time Court TV has sought to leverage the relative attentiveness and involvement its viewers have with its programs and the advertising airing inside them. The network used those elements in its 2002-03 and 2003-04 upfront pitches, but it has taken it to a degree of mathematical precision where the claims can be used to plan more effective media buys. By doing so, it also is embracing something the TV industry has toyed with but which some major publishers in the magazine industry have made their central selling point with Madison Avenue: involvement. Or more specifically, how the involvement of media consumers correlates to a higher return on advertising buys.
The role of media involvement and advertising effectiveness is not new, of course. It’s always been a tacit element of the media planning process. But historically it’s been based more on a planner’s intuition about which media options are most engaging to the consumers he or she is seeking to reach.
They may have used a range of qualitative research and even some quantitative statistics in an effort to differentiate the relative impact of one media option over another, but in the end, it was usually a matter of “gut” and “feel” that was more likely to be used as a tie-breaker between two comparable choices being considered for an advertising schedule.
The role of involvement gained a new impetus in the mid-1990s with the emergence of so-called TV “optimizers,” computer systems and software that maximize the reach of a given TV advertising schedule by selecting the programs or dayparts that deliver the most optimal reach against a target audience for the lowest possible advertising cost. Because their earliest iterations ignored many of the qualitative factors that are used by media planners to differentiate one show from another, some agencies and TV sales executives feared the systems would commoditize TV advertising buys to a lowest common denominator of cost per reach point. In truth, many do.
To combat this, agencies and the media began to develop a range of qualitative factors to differentiate the pure reach delivery of one media buy vs. another.
Alternatively, planners have begun to focus in on involvement as a surrogate of advertising effectiveness. While it may be difficult if not impossible for planners to consider the residual impact of an advertising exposure due to countless variables ranging from the creativity of the advertising message to the product itself, many feel that the immediate effect of an advertising exposure-that somebody actually noticed, paid attention and may have been persuaded by it-has emerged as the key goal of most media plans.
How to measure that-and how people agree on measuring that-is another matter entirely. Early iterations for measuring the involvement of TV viewers ranged from proprietary systems developed by ad agencies using custom consumer research studies, to a relatively unused application of Nielsen data known as “quad clustering.” In Nielsen’s quad analyses, viewers of a program are divided into four categories based on how often they watch a given episode of a show (frequency) and how much of the show they actually stay tuned for (duration). Combining those two elements provides a crude measure of involvement.
From Magazines to TV
By 2000 agencies and the media had begun experimenting with a wide range of methods and factors for measuring involvement, but it was the magazine industry that first took it up a notch, developing the so-called Involvement Index. The index was championed by a group of leading publishers that believed their titles attracted a more involved reader and therefore represented a higher advertising marketplace value. The print industry’s involvement index used some of the same elements as the TV industry’s-the frequency of reading a magazine title and the duration of reading it-but added a new factor: likability.
The magazine industry has become so transformed by the role of involvement that its trade association, the Magazine Publishers of America, commissioned a massive research study with Northwestern University that created an detailed view of the relationship consumers have with the magazines they read.
A syndicated media research supplier, Monroe Mendelsohn Research is not simply a magazine researcher. The company’s study of affluent consumers is a staple of cable network sales pitches, and MMR Chairman Walter McCullough said that once it has established its new Publication Readership Satisfaction Survey with the magazine industry, it plans to expand it into other media, including television.