By Lee Hall
Special to TelevisionWeek
These are the salad days for the people who do research for the Syndicated Network Television Association.
While broadcasters and their cable counterparts talk up ratings, reach and frequency, the SNTA focuses its paltry (by comparison) research budget on consumer trends and their impact on advertisers.
And this winter, salads are hot.
“It’s a big growth area for McDonald’s, and when McDonald’s succeeds with something, it impacts casual dining and [fast food] restaurants all over,” SNTA President Mitch Burg said of the shift toward more healthful fast-food choices.
Welcome to the world of syndication research, where the arcane be-comes relevant. Who knew that viewers of syndicated programs are 26 percent more likely than the general public to buy food labeled “sugar-free”? Or that fans of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” trend toward fat-free products at a rate 33 percent higher than the general public?
And who would care that people who watch shows such as “Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood” are 79 percent more likely than the overall population to dine on tofu and other natural foods?
Media planners care deeply about this kind of stuff, and that’s where SNTA is throwing its weight around.
“The research budget of one [broadcast] network alone would dwarf the entire budget of the SNTA,” Mr. Burg said. “But when you talk about these things, it’s something a media buyer will listen to and it’s the way a media planner would think.”
And that’s the bottom line-getting syndication’s story in front of the people who decide where ad dollars are spent.
It appears to be working. Syndication ad revenue grew 17 percent in 2004 to $2.6 billion.
Mr. Burg and his band of guerrilla fighters worked up research reports in seven product categories last year. If they can’t match the big networks in terms of data bulk, they figure the targeting approach makes for a good compromise.
Here are a few more tantalizing tidbits from SNTA’s data banks:
From all that research, it’s tempting to picture the typical syndicated TV viewer as a slim, young, procrastinating mom who zips between the department store and the office supply retailer before stopping at a fast-food place for a salad on the way home.
Tempting, but not always accurate.
Besides, with spring coming on, those salads will be old hat. Mr. Burg said he has new data on how syndication fans relate to telecommunications and automotive products.
“The more research we do on syndication, the better the value prospect for the advertiser,” he said.