Media Planners Awash in Data

Apr 4, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Between commercial ratings, engagement scores and minute-by-minute measurement, the advertising business seems to want more data in order to assess media investments.
But at TelevisionWeek’s fourth annual Media Planning Conference last week, some panelists said they were already awash with data and that more emphasis needed to be given to putting it all in a form that planners and buyers can use in the course of doing their jobs daily.
“I think we’ve never had more data available to us,” said Andrew Capone, senior VP of marketing and business development at NCC, which sells commercials to national advertisers for cable operators. “The challenge, though, is that enormous reams of data are currently available that go unexamined because of the nature of our business and the velocity of our business.”
That means a lot of decisions are made the old way: with the gut. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, Mr. Capone added, but “if there’s one thing that’s lagging behind the data, it’s our ability to consume, metabolize it and make decisions based on it.
“I don’t think the agencies have the people or are structured to do that properly yet. We certainly don’t have the scientists surrounding this data, so I think it’s a challenge.”
Tricia Cekoric, senior VP of communications planning at RJ Palmer, an independent media planning and buying agency in New York, said while clients are indeed interested in more information about media, “I’ve yet to find a client who actually wants to sit and read the data.
“There’s so much information out there, I think it’s just something we have to sift and go through and have conversations with the client community so we can effectively reach their goals,” she added.
“What we’re doing is trying to make sense of this plethora of information out there,” said Lyle Schwartz, managing partner and director of research and marketplace analysis at Mediaedge:cia. He described his job as condensing the data so that it helps the agency’s planners and buyers do their jobs.
“The hard part here is that every day there’s a new piece of information that needs to be put into the puzzle, and that is what my company is trying to do, which is put the pieces together and identify the pieces that are still missing,” he said.
The desire for more data has filtered down to the research companies.
“Consumers are demanding more of advertisers, and in turn advertisers are demanding more of their advertising agencies; then … both groups are demanding more of their data companies,” said Joan Fitzgerald, VP of the Personal People Meter new-product development group at Arbitron.
But while there have been numerous calls for data that provide more detail—such as ratings on a second-by-second basis—she noted that the term “granularity” is overused.
“The bigger questions facing planners is how do you get a more holistic, more integrated picture of what consumers are doing,” she said. That includes traditional media, the Internet and digital media, as well as consumer and trade promotion.
“I think we need to broaden our horizons as to how we’re going to define media,” Ms. Fitzgerald said.
Arbitron and the Nielsen Co. are jointly developing Project Apollo, a research effort that blends media usage data from Arbitron’s Personal People Meter with store checkout scanner data from ACNielsen.
Ms. Fitzgerald said Project Apollo was working hard to make sure its data is accessible to clients. She recalled the days when few people in the media research business knew how to use Lotus 123 well or had access to a database program.
“The world has changed in terms of or capabilities to use and understand data,” she said.
Nielsen also is looking to connect its TV viewership data with the company’s other databases on fields ranging from financial services to restaurant patronage, said Paul Donato, senior VP and chief research officer at Nielsen Media Research.
TNS Media Services, which has set up deals with cable and satellite companies to use set-top box data to provide information on TV viewing, is looking for other media with return-path data, said George Shabbab, chief operating officer. He said TNS was talking to Internet service providers and mobile companies.
Mr. Shabbab added that it’s difficult “to be able to design, develop, field-test and then commercially deploy technologies in a world that is as dynamic as the one we’re in now.”
Mr. Donato of Nielsen tempered enthusiasm about set-top data, noting that while there’s a huge number of cable and satellite set-top boxes out there, the operators have paid for the software to get data from only about 2 million of them.
But there are times when a 2 million-person sample can be less representative than a 100,000-person sample.
“You have to really understand how the sample is drawn in order to be projectable and whether you can use it with confidence,” Mr. Schwartz said. “The last thing you want to do is tell the client, ‘Early morning is great,’ then a week later say, ‘No, early morning is bad,'” he said. “Because if we don’t build it correctly, every day you will have a different insight that contradicts the previous one.”


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