Marketers Look to Online Buzz Before Betting on TV Hits

Social media is playing a big part in how ad dollars are spent

As marketers bet their ad dollars on which new shows will turn out to be big hits, they're turning away from traditional ratings methods and looking toward the impact of online buzz.

According to The Wall Street Journal, ad agencies' research teams have created elaborate models to monitor conversations across online social networks and video sites to estimate which shows will end up hits, as well as to track how ad time during a particular show affects sales or brand perception. Marketers implementing these new tools and statistics at this year’s upfronts think they will help them make more informed choices as ad prices increase.

Optimedia US, an ad buying firm owned by Publicis, compiles its own list that ranks the size of shows’ audiences across TV, mobile devices, and the Web. This year, they’re increasing the social media component of their rankings because of the impact that Twitter and Facebook mentions have on increasing a show’s audiences, says the company. For instance, Glee is ranked No. 55 by traditional Nielsen ratings methods counting viewers only, while Optimedia, which also considers the online activity generated by the show, ranked the show at No. 2.

But some research techniques are pushing new technology a bit too far, marketers say. Fox and ESPN, for example, are measuring viewers’ brain waves and eye movements during shows to track their emotional connection to a show. “I can't tell if it is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek or not,” said one ad buyer. “This stuff is way far away from actually being implemented in any measurement or guarantees.”