Clients Plan to Gauge TV Ad Effectiveness

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Two companies — Cable Audit Associates and Intermedia Advertising Group — have started to pitch separate plans to better measure the effectiveness of TV commercials.

Denver-based CAA earlier this month named Jim Surmanek — a 35-year ad-agency and media veteran — to head up MediaAnalysisPlus, a service that provides third-party auditing of advertisers' post-buy television analyses.

The advertiser community has "always insisted" on third-party analysis of audience ratings, Surmanek said, but has not demanded the same objectivity when it comes to analyzing their buys.

"When it comes to determining whether their advertising schedules actually ran as they were supposed to, this critical oversight task is left to their agencies — the same people who bought the schedules," he said. "This is like letting rabbits carry your lettuce."

CAA, which has provided auditing services for Discovery Channel, among others, declined to disclose any of the service's clients.

In New York, Intermedia Advertising Group two weeks ago formally launched its service, which measures the effectiveness of primetime commercials based on recall, understanding and likability.

Initially, IAG will focus on spots that air on the six broadcast television networks. Cable-network measurement will be added early next year, a spokeswoman said.

For the past year, IAG has quietly tested its methodology for five charter clients: Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., The Coca-Cola Co., Nabisco Group Holdings Corp., Tricon Global Restaurants Inc. and Unilever.

IAG intends to provide its clients with daily ratings of ads that appear within specific shows. This will allow an advertiser to see if its spot resonated with viewers of NBC's Friends, for example.

The company will measure recall for specific programs by getting its 20,000-person consumer panel to participate in a nightly trivia quiz on its RewardTV Web site (www.rewardtv.com).

The idea is to gauge how well viewers recall both program and commercial content during that week's primetime schedule. The firm also hopes to be able to track spots to the point at which they begin to "wear out."

Unilever vice president of media services Brad Simmons was enthused about the concept's potential "because it was designed by Cheryl Idell … who really understands how to apply research in making spending decisions."

In the fall of 2000, Idell left Initiative Media North America (formerly Western International Media) to become IAG's chief strategic and research officer.

IAG also has a "shareholder group" of 12 advisors and investors that includes Charter Communications Inc. vice chairman Marc Nathanson and representatives from The Walt Disney Co., Fox Entertainment Group Inc. and ad-agency holding companies.

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