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Demo-Based TV Buys Not Enough


NEW YORK For decades the major TV networks have based their sales pitches to advertisers on demographics -- primarily age sex and income characteristics of the audiences that watch their programs. But that's no longer enough, says David Poltrack, chief research officer at CBS.
Poltrack, who says network TV ad sales will be down in the mid-single digit range next year on a percentage basis (with a recovery beginning in early 2010), presented new research at the UBS Media conference today compiled by the Advertising Research Foundation that shows network TV advertising is just as effective as it has ever been. But in order to remain that way going forward the networks must start providing metrics to advertisers that tie TV viewing patterns to buying behavior, he said. He will also suggest that the networks must focus on delivering more granular commercial viewing data to advertisers, who, increasingly, want to be able to track viewing second by second through their spots.

Each upfront season the networks jostle for position with marketers, contending that their audiences, based largely on measurements from Nielsen Media Research, are the best targets for brands because they are men or women or single moms; more upscale, or younger skewing, or are empty nesters with more disposable income, among other characteristics. (Adweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.)
CBS for example, has for years touted the older-skewing demo of adults aged 25 to 54 (which comprised a big chunk of its audience) as the one in the best position to afford the products offered by many advertisers, while competitors like Fox and ABC have pitched the younger more persuadable 18 to 49 crowd.
But now, Poltrack says, demographic-based ad buys are a "poor surrogate measure of product potential" in the face of new techniques that allow marketers to link their ad purchase decisions to the buying behavior of the viewers watching their ads and the programs in which they are placed.
For the past year CBS has been working with market research and ratings company TRA Inc., a service that combines second-by-second TV viewing data from digital set-top boxes with shopping behavior provided by frequent shopper cards for grocery stores and other retail chains. Poltrack presented UBS attendees with some of the first results of broad-scale ad tests the network has conducted with TRA.

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