NBC Exec Stresses Accountability

NEW YORK In an age of rising demand for targeted, accountable advertising, NBC is “ready and anxious to partner up with measurement [companies],” according to a Sept. 28 keynote talk by Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development at NBC Universal.

More than a half-century after Adweek sibling Nielsen Media Research began tracking television viewing, “Nielsen metrics still aren’t ready for prime time,” he deadpanned from the podium of an American Association of Advertising Agencies and ARF Consumer Engagement Conference. “If they can’t do it, we’re going to seek partners who can.”

In summer 2005, network management asked its research division to develop alternative metrics, Wurtzel explained. To date it has entered into partnerships with New York-based IAG Research and Simmons BehaviorGraphics.

Both firms have provided a custom set of metrics to gauge viewer engagement.

Feedback about the IAG and Simmons methods has been positive, according to Wurtzel. “Clients have said that they’ve gained tactical and strategic results beyond Nielsen … plus made money on it,” said the self-proclaimed “wonky researcher.”

To date, Toyota is the only metrics trial participant NBC Universal has disclosed. According to Wurtzel, the network intends to explore alternative metrics with additional clients.

The fact that real advertising dollars are in play for the NBC Universal trials reinforces their validity, he stressed. “Only when people have real skin in the game” can the experiments be truly meaningful, Wurtzel added.

NBC Universal is guaranteeing its sponsors mutually agreed upon levels of performance based on both ratings and engagement.

Suggesting a do-or-die scenario, Wurtzel urged fellow media companies to set aside immediate self-interest for the long-term objective of refining viewing metrics and achieving “some kind of industry consensus.”

“We’re moving away from tonnage,” he noted after the forum, which was presented under the umbrella of Advertising Week. Anything that does not allow advertisers and marketers to target their desired audience is “empty calories,” he said.