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Commercial Verification Systems Fights Off Flaws

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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.

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