Who Gets The Blame For Fast Food Research? Ultimately, Those That Still Choose It

If you can, try and cut me some slack today.  Against my better judgement and out of an abundance of frustration and exhuastion, I succumbed to the temptation last night of a quick fast food meal on my way home from a day of networking.  For far too long, that was often the way I ended many days, the momentary rush of satisfaction upon ingestion being followed up by hours of stomach pain and worse.  Suffice to say, since I haven’t done that to my insides for a while, this morning the losing battle I fought with my toilet plunger should sum up my regret, and, believe me, anything you might want to say to chide me for my foolhardy choice won’t be any worse nor as effective.

I got a somewhat similar feeling when I saw this news item earlier this week from AD AGE’s prolific Jack Neff:

Nielsen is backing off a plan in the works for years to end trading on average commercial minutes (ACM)—the long used C3 and an C7 currencies—by next year.

The news is creating confusion, but also fulfilling predictions from some that Nielsen’s new currency wouldn’t be ready in time. 

A Nielsen spokesperson declined to comment on the situation. 

I tend to be hard on Nielsen, mostly because they’ve continually kicked the proverbial can of progress down the road on dozens of previous occasions, now over several decades.  If I had a nickel for every time a Nielsen representative issued a statement like this without comment to an intrepid reporter, I could afford a far healthier meal, and possibly even a few of their services.

If you think I’m tough on them, the unapologetic media cartographer Evan Shapiro really took them to task, with this intriguing diatribe on his always entertaining LinkedIn feed amplifying my thoughts accurately and eloquently.  As always, I urge you to take a moment to read the whole rant, because it reiterates the urgency and the consternation I’ve felt, and many of my peers continue to feel, about a company who has been about as responsive and forthright about making good on promises as your average OnlyFans content creator.

But for as easy as it is to castigate Nielsen, Neff’s article points out that despite all of the legitimate issues with the completeness, validity and relevance of data that was hardly effective enough to measure mere linear time-shifting decades ago, there’s apparently still enough demand for it out there.

A person inside Nielsen said the plan is to put forth ACM (C3 and C7) measures based on big data plus panel as the endorsed currency for the 24-25 upfront. ICM based on big data plus panel would also be available for buyers and sellers if they choose. And legacy panel-only ACM data would be utilized for comparison and analytics.

But the person acknowledged that things could change and panel-only ACM data might still end up being the currency of choice next year, as it was this year. “Ultimately the market decides what currency deals are transacted on,” this person said.

During a recent consulting gig, the executive I worked with who serviced some mid-market TV stations with news promotion efforts, put it even more succinctly when I observed that her client was missing a few opportunities to expand their monetizability.  “Their clients are only concerned with GRPs and showing their bosses they hit their targets.  They’ve always done it this way and they’re too lazy to change.  You’re not wrong, but they don’t care”.

Shapiro came to similar conclusions and was even harsher with his critiques:

The ad industry’s love-hate reliance on Nielsen, and their continued near-strangle-hold on currency in the ad market, can truly only be explained by the industry’s own dysfunctional inertia… No matter how badly they act, we just can’t quit them.

Nielsen’s got an awful lot of pressure on them, poor things.  The ownership that plunked down $16B for what is effectively a legacy brand is finally beginning to grapple with the reality of how foolhardy a decision that was, and like so many others who can’t seem to quit bad habits, their first move was to lay off some truly experienced and valuable talent who knew how the game is played.  Many who had toed the company line and made the promises to executives like myself on many previous occasions and had to endure frustration and vitriol from their bosses when we’d have to go back and let them know that all of those planned innovations to justify their desired price hike were, once again, being “delayed”.

But if there’s a market for fast food research, even if the end users are lazier and more unapolgetic about their lethargy than I am for my indulgence, and since their debt is actually slightly larger than mine, can you honestly blame Nielsen at this point?

Those that are out there selling are getting increasingly fed up and embracing alternatives.  Heck, NextTV’s Jon Lafayette dropped this nugget earlier this week as further proof:

Hallmark Media said that it will use VideoAmp as a currency for transacting advertising sales, further chipping away at Nielsen’s role as the standard upon which audience guarantees are based.

Hallmark will use VideoAmp’s estimates, based on big data from cable set-top boxes and smart TV sets, to guarantee the delivery of viewers within traditional demographics and advanced audiences.  Hallmark said it continues to work with Nielsen and plans to expand its current and future relationships in the measurement space.  According to VideoAmp data, Hallmark Channel is a top entertainment channel during the holidays for advertisers. Excluding broadcast, news, sports and kids networks, Hallmark was No. 1 in the fourth quarter of 2022 among households, adults 18-49, adults 25-54, women 18-49 and women 25-54.

To be fair, for as old-school and as elderly as the Hallmark content and Nielsen audience profile is, Hallmark has successfully punched above its weight using alternative research for years.  They have some outstanding and seasoned research and sales executives. Nielsen doesn’t exactly paint them as an also-ran.  But if a company like Hallmark can embrace change, then it’s all the more telling that many of its clients still can’t find the bandwidth to follow suit.

Shapiro’s chiding mirrors my thoughts:

(A)dvertising people, I have to blame YOU for this mess as well. After all the ways they’ve disappointed you, the myriad ways Nielsen’s broken your heart, why the fuck do you continue to stay with them?

Please do not tell me there aren’t alternatives. If that’s your excuse, then you are not really looking.

There are companies, RIGHT NOW, using big data to determine which and how many viewers you are reaching, not just on TV, but across the spectrum of platforms audiences watch – and using that data to match your money with your most likely consumers.

You deserve better. You DO!

But, at this point, if you’re sticking with Nielsen, without at least dedicating a decent share of your love and your ad buys to other, more advanced, currencies that will treat your money the way you deserve…

Don’t come crying to me the next time Nielsen makes you cry.

So I suppose I need to cut Nielsen at least a little bit of slack under these circumstances.  If they can cut into their debt load by hawking fast food research with the same kind of quality that I chose to ingest last night, well, have at it, boo.  Maybe those that continue to live off that kind of diet can stomach it better than I can.

Until next time…


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