Nielsen to Measure Product Placement

LOS ANGELES Nielsen Media Research will launch in February an Internet-delivered service for measuring product placement in prime-time television, the company confirmed. The first reports will canvas the six major broadcast networks during prime time only, though Nielsen expects to expand the service to other day parts and cable.

The service will permit subscribers to log on to a Nielsen Web site and access data on product placement by category, advertiser or brand, said Jack Loftus, senior vice president of communications at Nielsen, New York. “So, for example, a subscriber could search for ‘automotive,’ ‘Ford’ or ‘Explorer’ placements,” explained Loftus.

The actual placement will be shown with an outtake, whether audio plug or video clip, so that clients of the service can subjectively, or with their own software systems, measure the impact of the impression. Nielsen will correlate the clip with the audience rating of the associated program.

“We’re not setting a value on such product placements now, ” said Loftus, “but in the future we will be able to. It will require a lot of conversations with clients on what they agree is valuable. First they’ll have to work with the information and gain experience measuring it. For now the value could be tied to the ratings of the show and various objective and subjective criteria.”

Loftus said Nielsen will be value-neutral in the distinction between a delivered and an accidental or incidental placement, acknowledging that when someone drives off in a car, it may or may not be a recognizable model to the audience. The selection of nebulous placements by Nielsen will employ a standard of whether a reasonable person would recognize a certain product as distinct from others.

While acknowledging that there are no reliable sources for dollar figures, Nielsen, a unit of Adweek parent VNU, estimated in a report to clients the total media value of product placement in movies at $360 million and in television at several billion dollars a year.

David Ernst, executive vice president, director of futures and technologies, Initiative, New York, said he has seen Nielsen’s initial rendering of the system in development and characterized the service as “very necessary, as advertisers are looking for how product integration is working programming.”

Ernst said he approves of a “straightforward reading of what has transpired. That’s a fair approach. Once beyond that, everyone will have a different idea of how valuable the placement is. We need the basic measure before we get more elaborate.”