NEW YORK Late last year when Tracey Scheppach, svp, video innovation director at Publicis Groupe's Starcom, was sifting through reams of set-top box data for Charter Cable's 300,000 subscriber households in Los Angeles, she made a startling discovery. Among the top 10 viewed networks in October 2007 were ABC, Fox, USA -- and the Jade Channel.
You may not be familiar with the latter one, unless of course you have an avid interest in Chinese culture, speak Cantonese and consume news and entertainment programming in that language. Another discovery: 25 percent of all the viewing throughout the Charter Los Angeles system for that month involved networks not broken out by Nielsen Media Research in its regular ratings reports.
"That's alarming," said Scheppach, indicating that the more exact down-to-the-second detail offered from digital set-top boxes, or STBs, is just one reason she believes that advertisers must make widespread use of such data to demonstrate more precisely how viewers are watching TV. Scheppach's employer and sister shop MediaVest are working with TNS and several cable and satellite operators as well as TiVo to unlock insights in the STB data.
Others agree that STBs should become a primary tool for advertisers going forward, helping them to better target the right messages to the right households and also to better justify the roughly $70 billion spent on TV ads each year. WPP has made investments in several tech companies focused on mining data from STBs, including OpenTV and Invidi, which will participate in its first U.S. market trial in Baltimore in the third quarter of this year, and TRA, a startup that links STB data to consumer purchase information.
Last month, in a speech to attendees at the American Association of Advertising Agencies Leadership Conference, GroupM CEO Irwin Gotlieb said such investments are critical to success for both media and creative shops.
"The challenge going forward will be to create multiple executions to fit a segmented marketplace