After nearly three decades of media planning, I must confess, I’ve always looked at the “data” and “information” provided by all media outlets with a bit of skepticism. Never, have I solely planned an advertising campaign around the numbers provided by the media outlets to me and my team.
The one that always struck me the most was the Nielsen ratings system. A poll-like system where a sample of people, which the Nielsen company says, fully correspond to the TV-watching public, is asked to report their viewing habits. I always knew this rating system for traditional broadcast television was flawed. Not only did the system that they use to track television viewership and show ratings, seem like it was based on methods that couldn’t possibly be verified, but they charged an arm and a leg to gain access to the data they collected.
Nielsen and their rating system have been taking a real hit for years. Back in 2014, they had to speak up about their technical errors resulting in false ratings and even as recently as last year, we learned that once again the company ran into issues when it was discovered that their “measurement system” wasn’t being kept up with during the pandemic. Bottom line is their rating system is clearly in trouble and media planning and buying companies like mine, are no longer interested in relying solely on them and playing their game.
And if the issues with ratings haven’t affected the amount of media being placed in TV, streaming television definitely has. While streaming advertising options have been around for a while now, the recent rumors of a Roku and Netflix merger has my industry very excited! This would add another huge advertising opportunity that I know many of my clients would benefit from. And the data from these streaming services, which is directly linked to algorithms, seems to be way more accurate that polls taken by a sample of viewing audience. We now have access to very granular log-level data that includes information like DMA location, time of impressions, device usage, etc. All of which are extremely helpful and beneficial when planning a media buy. However, as with any information provided, I will continue to look at it for some insight, but take it with a grain of salt.
I’m not about to stop using traditional TV advertising in the media plans that my team and I coordinate for our clients. Or that I will replace all TV ads with only streaming advertising opportunities. After all, it’s not a one size fits all strategy when placing our client’s campaigns. Rather it’s about the product, their audience, the message, and their goals.
When it comes to any advertising medium, my planning methods won’t change much, if at all. Since I never rely on one form of advertising to achieve the needs of my clients, the issues with the Nielsen ratings system and growth of CTV and OTT advertising are simply areas that need to be evaluated along with all the other forms of media available.
In the end, I still believe it is more than just data that needs to be used to determine what will work best. I will always combine the information I am able to secure with a large dose of common sense. Because things like market conditions, personal behaviors, curiosity, and impulsive decisions still come into play. We’re more than just numbers, we’re people and humans have emotions, and they must all be accounted for in buying decisions. It’s worked for 30 years! I suspect until we’re all robots, it still will!