NBCU Sees Gold in Olympics Multiplatform Research

Oct 8, 2008  •  Post A Comment

NBC Universal Research President Alan Wurtzel thinks the research done during the Beijing Olympic Games has won the gold medal he was looking for.
NBCU put in place a number of research studies during the Games designed mainly to track how people consume related content on multiple media platforms, something that television executives have only been able to guess at until now.
“It turned out better than [it could be in] our wildest imagination in terms of our ability to really understand how people are using these different platforms,” Mr. Wurtzel said.
The research also was created for advertisers who signed up for multiplatform sponsorship packages during the Olympics.
For them, the news appears to be very good, Mr. Wurtzel said.
“When we looked at advertisers who just advertised on the Olympics on TV alone, their brand recall was about 35% and message recall was like 27%,” he said, citing engagement data from IAG Research, which worked with NBC Universal during the Games.
For those who advertised on NBCOlympics.com and the Olympics on TV, their brand recall was 46%, which was a 31% lift, and their message recall was 38%, which was a 41% lift, he said.
“There were some where the creative was extraordinary where those lifts were almost double the norm,” Mr. Wurtzel said.
“The fact of the mater is that this cross-platform stuff really works, especially if it’s done well,” he said. TV advertisers who bought online as well “were going to get a better effect on their TV advertising.”
One unique way NBC Universal looked at its audience was through a 39-person panel asked to carry cell phones designed by a company called IMMI. The cell-phone devices pick up the sounds of programming and are able to figure out what content is being watched and where it’s being watched.
Using IMMI’s type of single-source research allowed NBC to track how individuals consumed Olympic content on multiple platforms throughout their day.
The people in the panel were picked because they planned to watch Olympic programming and were early adopters of Web video and mobile video.
“We didn’t want to waste the use of the panel with people who just weren’t going to watch the Olympics or use some of this stuff,” Mr. Wurtzel said.
In all the group consumed 1,100 hours of Olympic advertising, with 73% being watched on TV, 26% on the Internet and 1% on mobile. The TV number was lower than normal because the sample was biased toward new-media users.
Looking at the data recorded by individuals during the Olympics, it is clear that multiplatform media use is not a “one-size fits all” situation, Mr. Wurtzel said. Usage also varies from weekdays—when about 1/3 of Olympic content was viewed on the Internet—to the weekend, when viewing on computers dropped to 16%.
“There are many shades of gray here, which we need to learn and understand,” he said.
Take two case studies.
One woman in the IMMI panel is 23 years old and lives in Miami.
On the first Sunday of the Olympics, she started watching USA Network at 8:52 a.m. and stayed till 9:17. Then she flipped to her mobile phone for a few minutes. At 10:15 a.m. she started watching the network and was simultaneously online looking at content from NBCOlympics.com from 10:30 to 10:45. Later in the evening, there was another time she was watching the Olympics on TV and viewing NBCOlympics.com at the same time.
On the next day—a workday—she started the day with a quick look at USA Network, then went online until about 7:25 a.m. Then she probably went to work, where she was on the Olympic site for about 25 minutes around lunchtime. After a few more Internet sessions in the afternoon, she checked the Olympics on her cell phone at 5:35 p.m.
Mr. Wurtzel noted that this woman checked the Olympic site, probably for results, every day during the week between 5:30 and 6 p.m.
When she got home, she logged onto the Web site, then turned her TV on at 8 p.m., using the two simultaneously to follow the Games until she logged off at about 8:40 pm.
Before the Olympics began, NBC Universal pitched advertisers that this was the way users would act during the Games, catching pieces on TV, online, on mobile, sometimes simultaneously. But until now, research hasn’t been able to track that kind of multiplatform content consumption.
“It was so prescient. It was exactly the way some of these people actually behaved. I think we’re seeing the future,” Mr. Wurtzel said. “For the first time we demonstrated that we can measure this behavior.”
The woman’s media use contrasted sharply with that of a 33-year-old man from Chicago.
On Sunday, he spent a fair amount of time watching the Olympics on TV, but never once went online. The following day, however, he started his day online and had a long session that lasted till about 10:30 a.m. He was also online for brief stops at NBCOlympics.com 14 times during the afternoon. Later, when he got home, he watched the Games on TV but never went online again.
His behavior may be typical of a significant portion of the population.
“There are some people that we speak to who say, ‘You know, I’m online all day at work, so when I get home I have no interest in being online.’ And this is obviously an example of one of those guys,” Mr. Wurtzel said.
Mr. Wurtzel said the test also demonstrated that the IMMI approach to measuring media consumption is effective.
“Honestly, until we were into the Olympics and we started getting data, we just had no idea whether this thing was going to be a bust or not,” Mr. Wurtzel said.
NBC Universal has reams of additional data from the Olympics that it will be studying and plans to look for more ways to use the IMMI research in the future, he said.
Mr. Wurtzel said that with content going multiplatform, research based around some sort of hand-held portable device will be necessary.
“To me this is like the Wright brothers’ first flight. And we have a long way to go before this becomes a currency,” he said. “Whether IMMI is going to be the ultimate solution or it’s some guy in a garage in Silicon Valley who is going to come up with a better mousetrap, I just don’t know.”


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