As frustration over the lack of measurement of consumer-controlled media mounted, media companies and their advertisers last year began to tussle in earnest with research companies for more input over the direction of research that determines the course of their business.
That tussle took a few forms in 2005 that are likely to continue into 2006. First was the Advertising Research Foundation's industry forum on accountability of audience research, which led to the formation of the Audience Measurement Initiative to set the direction for improving audience measurement. The impact AMI might have should become clearer in 2006. It gives media companies and advertisers a voice in independently conducted research that may or may not be adopted by ratings firms.
Second were heated hearings on Capitol Hill over Nielsen Media Research's rollout of local people meters without Media Rating Council accred-itation. The MRC has proposed that the research companies establish a voluntary code of conduct, and Nielsen just last week said it will finish penning a code "shortly."
Nielsen, owned by Adweek parent VNU, faces a tough road ahead as it tries to incorporate time-shifted viewing into its ratings, with some initial challenges (last week, the company had to delay its overnight ratings due to complications from having various feeds of data). Also, agencies and media companies will need to decide how much to use the ratings streams that will become part of the ratings lexicon: live, live plus same-day, live plus seven-day.
Separately, Nielsen's Active/Passive meter is finally being deployed, but it will take all of 2006 to get the meters fully installed. So far, only 60 are out there. And there's still no real headway being made on measuring out-of-home TV viewing, which to some media companies accounts for a decent chunk of audience. Whether that gets resolved in 2006 is unclear at this point.
Then there's Project Apollo, which attempts to match consumers' media habits from Arbitron's portable people meter technology with ACNielsen's product purchase data, offering a kind of ROI Holy Grail. A planning tool, the pilot will go live in the next few weeks. Two major advertisers have signed: Procter & Gamble and SC Johnson, along with four other still-unnamed advertisers.