Commercial Verification Systems Fights Off Flaws

Back in August, after Fox News host Glenn Beck called President Obama a racist, dozens of advertisers bailed from Beck’s program. Some big marketers, including Procter & Gamble and Progressive Insurance, claimed they were unaware they even advertised in the show and said that any of their ads appearing in it were mistakes.

Given today’s fragmented TV landscape, agency executives say such mistakes are easier than ever to make.
 
Case in point: Nielsen’s KeepingTrac recently monitored one client’s $18 million national TV campaign and found that nearly 10 percent of the ads failed to reach the contracted number of viewers. Six percent of the ads that ran were “mis-run,”meaning they didn’t air in the right time periods or programs, or ran in some other way that violated the terms of the buy agreement and were thus potentially subject to make goods from the network. “That’s extreme, but the point is we are going to catch stuff,” said Kevin Svenningsen, svp, Nielsen Tracking Services. (Adweek, as well as Mediaweek, is a unit of Nielsen.)

Most of the errors are usually detected, but often weeks and sometimes months after the fact when the campaigns are already over.
 
Several near-real-time commercial verification systems have entered the market in the last year. They’re capable of detecting whether ads are running in compliance with the terms clients agreed to, such as the programs in which they’re supposed to appear and the time periods. They even monitor the audience composition of programs so that an ad for beer or alcohol that pops up in a program with a sizable underage audience is immediately flagged.

Lyle Schwartz, director of implementation research and marketplace analysis for WPP’s GroupM, said the new systems help shops more efficiently steward client buys. “When I got into the business, if you wanted to buy 100 weekly gross rating points you might have bought 10 or 12 units from four networks,” he said. “Now to buy those same GRPs you need to buy something like 75 units across 35 stations. The complexity and greater fragmentation offer more possibilities for something to fall through the cracks.”

Schwartz and others say that two verification systems with the most state-of the-art bells and whistles on the market today are Montreal-based Eloda Corp.’s Protocol and Nielsen’s KeepingTrac. Both tie in to TV spot transaction-processing systems like Donovan Data Systems, enabling the verification services to raise red flags if ads appear to violate contracted terms with media sellers.
 
KeepingTrac also ties in to the Nielsen database, enabling clients to keep daily tabs on total audience delivery and the demos of the shows in which their ads appear.

After evaluating both systems, GroupM now has a blanket agreement with KeepingTrac for clients that want to utilize the service, said Schwartz, who declined to say how many clients use the service.

Havas’ MPG is now testing both systems for its client Reckitt Benckiser and results will be released later this year. MPG COO Steve Lanzano said that verification has increasingly become a key issue for many clients as they strive for greater efficiencies in today’s ROI-focused media environment. “They want results in real time, especially in retail and entertainment where they have short finite periods for a sale or getting people to the box office,” he said. “They need to make adjustments as soon as they can if the schedule is not running properly.”
 
Lanzano said the shop is testing Protocol and KeepingTrac, adding that the shop’s test is not designed to pick one or the other as each system may have different strengths appealing to different clients. “Looking at both systems, it’s about what they can do, how quickly they can do it and what is the application for the advertiser,” said Lanzano.

Carat worked with KeepingTrac from the outset, helping the company to refine its product, said Andrea Gallo, vp and regional spot director at the Aegis-owned shop. She says the system benefits clients and agencies alike. “It gives agencies [that] use this kind of service an advantage over those that don’t,” she said. “It’s a stewardship tool that enables buyers to have almost an aerial shot of what’s happening in the marketplace.”
   
Meanwhile, Eloda said last week it was going private by way of an asset sale to undisclosed investors that would give the company added resources for marketing and development. In order to complete the transaction it’s restructuring in a pre-packaged plan under protection of the Canadian Bankruptcy Court, from which it expects to emerge from in about four weeks.

The company, whose clients include Walgreen, Accenture and Bell Canada, has found that most campaigns have discrepancies ranging from anywhere between 3 percent and 20 percent of ads in their campaigns, said Eloda CEO Francois Rainville. The latest systems, he said, are turning after-the-fact reconciliation exercises by advertisers into “real-time management processes.”

Nielsen Business Media