Wurtzel said he was "supportive" of a possible move to a more granular system. "The problem is the technical limits of the current system," he said. As far as Nielsen's ability to move to a system that measures specific spots, Wurtzel said, "They are not anywhere close yet as far as I'm concerned."
A Nielsen representative confirmed that the survey was being conducted for the ratings company's own "education" purposes, but said it was premature to comment further.
But a number of advertisers and agencies want Nielsen to go more granular. The Association of National Advertisers is pushing for exact commercial ratings. In an ANA survey of marketers earlier this year, 87 percent of those polled indicated they wanted to see the implementation of a ratings system that measures viewing to specific ads.
Bruce Goerlich, president, strategic resources, Publicis Groupe's Zenith Media, said the agency wants Nielsen to be more precise as well. "We've never been very happy with the idea of an average number," he said.
While Goerlich and others push the industry to focus more on audiences to specific spots, there is mounting pressure on advertisers (and by extension their creative shops) to provide ads that engage viewers.
"It's sort of a case of be careful what you wish for," said Wurtzel. "There's no air cover anymore for the creative."
Some networks, including TNT and TBS, are assessing the ability of specific ads to hold audiences and are talking to clients about spots that send viewers scurrying. "We are very much focusing on creative performance and placement and I think you will see that growing over time," said Linda Yaccarino, evp, gm, Turner Entertainment Sales. "Look at The Closer. We are handing the advertiser a 6 or 7 national rating and we want the audience to stay through the break, so it really matters what creative goes in those breaks and what positions you put them in."
However, Mike Shaw, president of ABC Sales, said at a recent research conference that he isn't so sure he wants to get into conversations with clients where the network is forced to say "their baby is ugly."
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