Nielsen Shops Daily TV Spot Verification Service

NEW YORK The Nielsen Co. is shopping its just-developed commercial-monitoring service to media agencies and their clients. Called Keeping Trac, it offers daily verification that an advertiser’s TV spots have not only aired, but when and where they ran.

For decades advertisers have complained about the lag time between when their TV ads aired and the post-run analyses that verified not only that their spots ran, but that they did so at the times and in the programs that their contracts specified. It has often taken weeks for such reports, usually generated by the company selling the ads or a third-party processor, so that discrepancies often couldn’t be addressed until after a campaign concluded.

Nielsen (the parent company of Adweek) believes its new service addresses those concerns. “Advertisers and agencies are much more attuned to accountability issues now, and it was basically the industry coming to us and saying if you can encode programs for your ratings service why can’t you encode commercials [for verification],” said Terrie Brennan, svp, new business development at Nielsen.

Nielsen worked closely with Aegis Group’s Carat to develop the service, Brennan said. She credited Carat with helping Nielsen design a system to address the various commerical tracking needs of clients and agencies in today’s fragmented media landscape.

According to Mary Barnas, evp, director of local broadcast, Carat, the product is “state of the art” and a significant advancement over earlier systems.

Carat is the first agency to sign up for Keeping Trac, Nielsen said. Another agency is also on board but did not want to be identified, pending client approval to do so.

Carat tested the service earlier this year with car client Kia, which has decided to use the system going forward, said Cynthia Jensen, vp, media operations at the World Marketing Group, the in-house unit that oversees ad placement for the Kia and Hyundai auto brands.

“We are very high on accountability, and this gives us the opportunity to look at our vendors [TV stations, networks, etc.] and make sure they are delivering on our buys,” Jensen said. “We can now look at real-time misses and get [make goods] scheduled in flight instead of 90 days after the fact.” And time slots that become available after the fact usually aren’t as valuable, she said.

The technology to operate the service is not new. It utilizes audio and video codes, embedded during the ads’ post-production, that are used to identify spots.

What is new is the software, which allows users to verify that the right creative spots aired in the proper programs. Barnas said the ability to identify ads by specific copy is a real plus. In the past, if the wrong copy aired in a spot on a particular station, “we would not have known that until we’d seen the invoice. Now we can correct it immediately,” she said.

The software also monitors commercial separation guidelines and can verify, for example, that the same ad doesn’t run twice in the same 10 minutes.

And it also monitors the audience composition of programs where ads run, which has become increasingly important in recent years as regulators and public interest groups pay close attention to the younger audiences being reached by junk food and liquor ads.

A handful of companies, including Verance, have tried launching real-time verification services in the past, but didn’t get much traction in the marketplace, said Barnas.

Part of the problem with those services, Barnas said, is that “they were primitive,” in comparison to the new service that Nielsen had brought to the marketplace. Verance shuttered its ConfirMedia service last year.

Barnas said Keeping Trac offers agencies two key advantages: “It creates operational efficiencies, and it’s a stewardship tool that allows us to maintain and monitor client schedules while we’re on the air.”