Category Archives: nielsen

2012, the year of the TV

For the first time ever, in 2012 the average U.S. home will have three television sets. What does that tell us about society?

It’s a paradox, really. Talk to many in the ad industry and you’ll hear “TV is over.” Gurus from Don Peppers to Joseph Jaffe have made livings suggesting the fragmentation of mass media has spread the disease of consumer inattention, an inability for marketers to maintain the push messaging strategies of yore. Bob Knorpp, a friend of ours who hosts one of adworld’s cleverest podcasts, The Beancast, expressed surprise a few weeks ago when someone mentioned TV ratings were up in 2011. “How is that possible?” Bob asked. “I thought TV was supposed to be dying.”

Yet what’s happening is more complex — time spent in front of TVs is at an all-time high, while within that time video fragmentation is making audiences more difficult to reach. If TV were a date, she’d be having more sex but with many different people. Our passion for television is hot, but alas, she has become promiscuous.

Here’s the good news for TV marketers:

+ The average U.S. consumer is exposed to more than 4 hours and 50 minutes of TV daily. Both web and mobile use, by comparison, rank under 1 hour a day. TV is the largest canvas to paint your brand picture.
+ 97% of U.S. households own TVs.
+ HD video has renewed interest in television, with 67% of homes now able to receive high-def video vs. only 14% four years ago.
+ The cost of TV sets continues to plummet, with high-def 60-inch LCD panels now below $1,000.

Yet big challenges loom:

– Advertisers push too many commercials out. In November 2010 an estimated 19,752 commercial messages of assorted lengths were played on TV during prime time, up 43% from 2000. Average commercial time per television hour is now around 18 minutes, vs. about 8 minutes in the 1960s.
– Consumers can’t possibly digest all those ads. The typical person in the U.S. is exposed to 166 television messages each day. Can you remember more than three TV ads from yesterday?
– Consumers are rebelling in two ways — either doing something else when ad messages run (typically “concurrent media use,” looking away at laptops or mobile), or using time-shifting tools such as TiVo and DVRs to record television and watch it later, fast-forwarding over commercials.

To say TV is dead misses the point; audience fragmentation does not mean audiences no longer exist. TV use is huge, yet consumers have found new ways to avoid ads. It’s easy to forecast statistics to paint too bleak a picture; years ago Jaffe, for instance, said that DVR use would be in 40% of homes by 2009, while Nielsen just reported that timeshifting viewing in 2010 was just 9% of all viewing (time-shifting is plateauing, a sign that consumers may be too lazy to push buttons to record and rewatch programming vs. just letting the blue glow of cable wash over them). Video use via the Internet is expected to challenge TV, but in 2010 young adults spent just 6 minutes and 51 seconds watching online video daily vs. more than two hours using traditional TV.

There is no question the television landscape is changing, but it’s been doing that since the 1960s. Marketers exploring television as an option just have to be smarter about planning how to reach their targets.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: Al Ibrahim

iPad lures $100k households away from magazines

If velocity is distance over time, the iPad is moving fast. Ipsos Mendelsohn, a research group that studies media habits among affluent Americans, reports that newspaper and magazine use is down 16% from 2009 to 2010 among households earning more than $100,000. (Note: Use means time spent reading, not number of issues delivered to the home.) Mendelsohn’s survey of 13,804 affluent individuals found their Internet use jumped from 22.6 to 25.3 hours a week in the 12-month period. Those $100k households represent one-fifth of the U.S. population, and are one of the sweetest targets for advertisers. With so many eyeballs skipping away from old print, marketers will see declining results if they don’t put mobile and display media in their plans.

Mendelsohn’s president Bob Shullman told ClickZ, “Right now about 98% of the affluents are online — compared with 70% of the rest of the population — and they have lots and lots of digital devices.”

As for the iPad itself, Apple’s tablet is attracting affluent younger users. Nielsen has found those willing to drop $499 on a new technology gadget skew male (65%), younger than age 35 (63%), and relatively affluent (50% of the individuals earn more than $75,000 a year). This contrasts to only 30% of all mobile subscribers making more than $75,000 a year — indicating Apple is locking in the future affluents with its tablet devices.

If you target upscale customers, it’s time to rethink the media plan.

Image: Elsonpro

ABC’s digital lap dance

Holy double-tasking, Batman. ABC has launched a new iPad app that automatically syncs with your television show by picking up an audio signal, and then dishes up additional content via the tablet in your lap.

The clever app takes advantage of the growing trend of concurrent media usage, where consumers watch multiple screens at the same time (think of a teen with smart phone in hand watching a movie in your basement). Nielsen’s three-screen studies, which use direct observation of consumers in 10-second increments to see what they watch when, have found people are (gasp) extremely likely to look away from TV sets during commercial breaks, instead picking up magazines, cell phones or laptops. The only way to keep those viewers engaged in the marketing messages that fund most televised content is to gain share of another media channel. ABC, way to grab eyeball shelf space.

Google use down 17%. Is tide of search going out?

If you’ve been having trouble lately with your Google PPC campaign, the table above explains why.

Search remains a vital part of any marketing plan, but shifts in consumer behavior are giving it a smaller slice of the media pie. Nielsen is reporting that the total volume of U.S. searches is down significantly year-over-year, with all searches down 16%, Google down 17%, Yahoo off 30%, and Bing making some gains. We noticed this trend back in February 2008, and it is rather obvious to anyone who has seen the rising tide of social media — with only so many hours in the day, time spent asking friends online what to do is time spent away from a search engine.

The solution is not to exclude Google, Yahoo or Bing from media plans, but to become sophisticated in how to make them work harder. Search is still the ultimate marketer’s dream — it provides people looking for exactly what you sell, and you pay advertising fees only if you get them to click. But search is also evolving into many other ways that consumers seek information — via video, friend recommendations, serendipitous Twitter or Facebook updates, product review sites, personalization, mobile proximity, location-based service Shopkick-type temptations. Rather than think of search as a PPC line item, think of it as a series of channels and modalities that people use. Then ask, how do we cover all the new search bases?

Via Dirk Singer, who gosh, wrote very nice things about us.

TiVo fast-forwards the TV ratings industry

U.S. marketers spend about $70 billion annually on television advertising. What happens if the data guiding those investments was wrong?

TiVo, the little gadget that helps you record television programming, is poised to give Nielsen serious competition in how video audiences are measured — and perhaps to fill some gaps. Nielsen, as you know, compiles ratings for television programming that explain what percent — or share — of the 114 million TV sets in the United States are tuned to any program. Trouble is, Nielsen bases such ratings on a sample of 25,000 U.S. households. While Nielsen does process more than 2 million paper diaries in its four “sweeps” heavy observation periods, in general only 0.02% of the entire U.S. television audience is actually measured — and 99.9% is not.

TiVo will shake that up by releasing directly observed data on 375,000 households: second-by-second viewing from TiVo’s set-top boxes including whether you skip commercials, play shows back later, or pump content from Hulu or YouTube through your set. Critics have long pointed out that Nielsen’s panel-based measurement leads to errors. Panelists tend to overestimate their viewing of new programs they think they’d like; college students, in that sweet youth demo, have been underrepresented; viewing outside of the home, such as in bars, is not recorded; and thanks to the blunt scoring system, some shows with real audiences have been given 0.0 share. New data is coming, and the shifts may unnerve $70 billion in TV investments.

Image: Môsieur J.

Social media kills your web portal

Yeah, we know you’re working on a big new corporate site — and here is why it likely doesn’t matter. New research from Nielsen shows Americans now spend 33% of their time online using social media or online games, up from about 25% a year ago. Google search has remained about constant, with the big losers being portals such as Yahoo and AOL — with their slice down by 19 percent. Peter Kafka over at AllThingsD also notes that email is migrating over to smart phones, where Americans spend 42% of the time they hold handsets pecking at tiny keys.

The harsh lesson for marketers: Consumers want to see less of your single site, and if they do read a message, it may be on tiny handsets with less visual inventory for ad messaging. Perhaps instead of focusing on your single landing page, it’s time to build a broader web presence with more options for consumers to find, or share, your story.

Nielsen fluffs up the TV ratings

The media ratings service Nielsen made two humongo moves recently that acknowledge video viewing is migrating away from live television. On Wednesday, it announced it would no longer track how many TV channels the typical U.S. consumer receives, because as MediaPost reports, “there no longer is a ‘consistent’ meaning for the term ‘channel.’ “

But the real story is this: Nielsen has also decided to change the very nature of television ratings by including “duplicate” viewing — as in, you watch a TV show tonight, and then you watch it again by playing it back on a DVR. This may sound like a nuance, but it is a huge shift in the concept of a media audience delivered. Advertising impressions have always been perceived as mutually exclusive. A newspaper with 100,000 circulation is assumed to reach 100,000 different sets of eyeballs. Broadcast is fuzzier, of course — a 100 GRP schedule could reach 100% of the viewing population once, or 1% of that population 100 times — but at the micro level of a single commercial airing, each audience has been assumed to be unique.

No more. A critic might suspect this move is Nielsen’s way of bolstering the broadcast industry, by boosting ratings numbers as audiences start to slide elsewhere. Magazine and newspaper publishers have tried similar gamesmanship with their BS “readership” malarkey; back in 2007, for instance, Essence magazine claimed its 1.07 million printed copies reached 7.8 million readers thanks to the magic of “passalong readership.” (“Look, honey, Essence magazine came in the mail — let’s hold a party and invite all our friends!”) Is Nielsen gaming the system by adding in numbers beyond the “live audience” to now include duplicates as well? Perhaps. Either way, the real challenge for advertisers is Nielsen provides no way to determine if any of that downstream DVR audience skips over commercials entirely.

Image: Tantek

Facebook’s 10% problem

Facebook and Nielsen have released a new study on how well consumers recalled the messages of 14 ad campaigns. Let’s ignore for a moment that the study was done via an opt-in survey instrument on Facebook, drawing an inherently biased pool of people who are willing to click on an online offer, and see what the data showed:

1. “Organic” impressions, or messaging about a product that your friends actually write to you, led to much higher rates of recall than the paid ads themselves.

2. Yet paid impressions, the actual ads, typically make up 90% or more of all impressions online — leaving only 10% the social good stuff.

Conclusion: People listen when friends talk, but it’s very, very hard to get friends to talk. In our own experience with clients, the vast majority of Facebook ads go unnoticed, much more so than other forms of online display advertising. Click-through rates on banner ads across all U.S. web sites averaged 0.08% in 2009; on Facebook, campaigns are typically in the 0.02% range. CTRs don’t track real impressions, of course, but they are a good proxy for how much of your online audience is actually digesting the offer. Part of the challenge lies in social media sites being refreshed frequently as users click to update the news streams, making “impressions” on each page relatively inflated compared to news sites where readers linger over articles. If true organic impressions are only a fraction of the actual paid ads that make it to real eyeball retinas, Facebook’s 10% problem may be more like 0.002% — a tiny, desirable dynamic in which your consumers tell others how good you are, sweetly powerful and so very hard to control.

You can download the Nielsen report here.

The challenge for Comcast’s web TV = ads

One gigantic fear within the cable industry is the migration of consumers to watching television on the web — via services such as Hulu — will undermine their lucrative subscription model. After all, why pay $150 a month for cable if you get shows for free online? So the obvious defense is to entangle cable subscribers to watch their cable TV on the web as well. The cable industry is hyping this with a so-called TV Everywhere movement.

Comcast is the latest cable provider rolling out a national web TV service, called Fancast XFINITY TV. The service will give free Comcast cable content on the web to any authenticated cable subscriber (at first to only subscribers of both Comcast cable and Internet service, and in about 6 months opening up to any Comcast cable users).

But the ads, dear, are heavy.

There’s a tiny problem — analysts don’t know if users will accept the “full advertising load” of cable programming in an online format., for instance, has compressed ads to 15-second formats and shows only 2 minutes of commercials per 30 minutes of programming vs. the 8 minutes typically shown on a TV set. With online users able to immediately click away at the first sign of boredom, Comcast and other cable giants have two huge hurdles: first, get users to their online TV portals, and second, hope the commercial load of old TV models doesn’t make web users touch that dial. Nielsen has reported that consumers’ “concurrent media use” spikes when spots air on traditional live television; good luck avoiding such switches online when they have a mouse in hand.

In a way, cable companies and broadcasters are to blame for this dilemma. The load of commercials has been increasing ever since Bulova ran the world’s first TV spot, a 10-second ad, in 1941. An average hour of U.S. television now includes only 42 minutes of real programming, down from 51 minutes in the 1960s — meaning that any reruns from that period must be cut by 9 minutes. Television commercials now take up twice the time they once did. If consumers rebel online, perhaps it’s because commercials have gone too far.

Image: Spoon

When public and private screens fail

We joked this morning on Twitter that this buzzing Windows display at JFK Airport made a cool new ad for Apple. But perhaps it’s a deeper signal — that the proliferation of new video screens means all marketers face similar risks of consumer disengagement.

To understand why, let’s visit a ratings service. This past spring, Nielsen trumpeted its $3.5 million Video Consumer Mapping Study, which observed 376 U.S. consumers in 10-second intervals as they walked about their lives for two full days. The results: U.S. residents watch more than 8 hours of “screens” each day, with a full 5 hours and 9 minutes in front of live television. This would seem good news for general broadcasters … until you look more closely:

1. Young demos were observed by Nielsen spending the majority of screen time away from televisions, with about 50% of screen viewing for adults 18-44 coming from DVR playback, web sites, email, mobile, and GPS navigation.

2. “Concurrent media use” skyrockets when ads come on traditional television, meaning viewers move their eyes away from the tube and toward cell phones or laptops during commercial breaks.

This is rough news for the entire broadcast and publishing industries, which are still tied to the 20th century model of third-party advertising driving almost all revenue. The proliferation of screen devices means consumers have more options than ever before to control what they consume, and it’s getting easier to click away: both Apple and Dell may release new wireless touchscreen tablet devices in 2010. More choices mean marketers must get their message and media right, or they’ll fail like a buzzing digital sign at JFK Airport.