ADcom Information Services Inc. has signed up five ad
agencies -- Bates USA, Leo Burnett Co.'s Starcom Media Services, Creative Media,
Ogilvy & Mather and Western Initiative Media Worldwide -- for its local cable-ratings
Executive vice president of sales Dick Spooner said those
commitments cover the researcher's current report for Jacksonville, Fla., and its
upcoming reports for San Francisco and Dallas.
ADcom's two latest local reports "will be up and
running by the end of the year," Spooner predicted, noting that its planned
installations in 1,500 homes in San Francisco and 930 in Dallas by September are on
schedule -- at 1,556 and 929 homes, respectively.
ADcom -- which is now in its third year of producing local
ratings for MediaOne Group Inc.'s Jacksonville system, with a 603-household sample --
had been talking with the MSO about expanding its ratings service into its top 10 markets.
But that was "put on hold," Spooner said, due to
MediaOne's pending acquisition by AT&T Corp.
However, he added, "We fully expect to move
ahead" with additional MediaOne and AT&T Broadband & Internet Services
systems once that acquisition is finalized. He's also confident that other MSOs will
sign on by year's end.
Despite having signed WPP Group PLC to an earlier
commitment last fall -- when WPP also became a "significant" minority investor
-- ADcom still had to make separate presentations to WPP's O&M and J. Walter
Thompson Co. divisions. "Our relationship with WPP didn't make it easier,"
Spooner, who is hoping that a JWT commitment will come
soon, has also talked with JWT about ADcom producing cable ratings in Los Angeles.
Although JWT senior partner and director of media research
David Marans called ADcom "an interesting [local-cable-ratings] alternative to
Nielsen [Media Research]," the ad agency instead signed a research agreement last
month with Adlink, the Los Angeles interconnect, on what the companies called "a
proprietary research methodology that will more accurately measure [cable]
viewership" in that DMA.
That methodology relies on Nielsen-metered data from 300
homes in the market -- data the companies said are "then converted to demographic
ratings based on an extensive analysis of national 'PeopleMeter' ratings."
Marans and Adlink also said in their joint statement that
Nielsen's diaries have a "pro-broadcast, pro-network bias," and "most
of the funding for Nielsen's local-market ratings comes from over-the-air
broadcasters [which] are in no rush to move to a research technique -- PeopleMeters
-- that might diminish their ratings."
Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus retorted, "I
haven't heard David [Marans] saying anything about [financially] supporting the
rollout of the local PeopleMeter."
But Marans is not alone among ad executives who have been
critical of Nielsen's diaries.
TN Media Inc. senior vice president Howard Nass, who met
with ADcom last month, said he, too, is uneasy that "currently, Nielsen is not doing
justice to the cable industry," because its diary methodology and small sample size
underestimate cable viewership.
Spooner said talks with JWT about Los Angeles and beyond
are ongoing, and meetings also are due with Adlink.
He and his salespeople have also been busy pitching the top
50 ad agencies and the major MSOs "to bring them up to speed" on ADcom's
capabilities and its local ratings plans, he said.
For instance, he noted, ADcom's sample size is
"six to 10 times that of Nielsen," and its reports go beyond household and
demographic data to include product-purchase and intent-to-purchase information.
Data for its demographic reports and its "retail
stuff" -- the product information -- are produced by its own telephone surveys from
7,500 homes in San Francisco and 5,000 in Dallas, Spooner said.
Although ADcom was talking last fall about eventually
producing local ratings across the top 30 DMAs, the firm has since scaled that back.
"Our focus right now is on the top 10," Spooner said.
As for previous hints that ADcom might negotiate with WPP
to incorporate product-usage data from WPP's subsidiary, Simmons Market Research
Bureau, he said, "We are looking at that for the future."