Last October, the Nielsen Company announced that they were going to provide a national study of Out of Home Television viewing (OOH) by April, 2017. Soon my e-mail was loaded with excited messages from broadcasters all over the U.S.
The somewhat breathless comments included: “answer to our prayers,” followed by “Finally, our total audience will be measured” and “this new study when paired with Nielsen household data will make us much more competitive again.”
Well. There is no question that part of TV viewing is done outside the home. Nielsen’s Portable People Meter (PPM) will definitely pick up viewing in airports, hotels, doctors waiting rooms, gyms, and sports bars. Initially, a pilot test demonstrated that OOH might add 7-9% audience to the important 25-54 demographic. In sports, the uptick could be as high as 14% as many of us watch a game at friends homes or at a sports bar.
That is all fine and the exposure OPPORTUNITIES may indeed be there. My issue with OOH is that, when blended with conventional household viewing data, it may take an overstated audience projection and make it even more so.
For years now, we have all seen a rapid growth in advertising avoidance. More than half of us in the U.S. have a time shifting device which allows us to record a show and play it back jumping commercials. And, those of us who are watching live are often in the majority when we have another device going as we watch TV that gets special attention during commercial breaks.
So, OOH viewing has to be even more suspect. Have you ever watched a game at a sports bar? During commercials many of us tend to order up another round, discuss what is going on in the game with table mates, make a quick phone call or go to the bathroom. Whatever numbers Nielsen provides on audience size have to overstate attentiveness significantly. This is the age old issue that has been around since remotes first emerged in upscale households in the 1950’s.
For years, especially in the 1980’s, many of us tried to take attentiveness in to account by putting probability of exposure weights on each TV daypart. Many of us would set Primetime at 100 (admittedly an overstatement then and now) and mark down Late Night and Early Morning significantly. Clients often did not like it as daypart mixes tended to skew toward expensive mixes with a heavy weight toward those times of day when attentiveness was likely to be higher than others. It was not perfect but it was an honest attempt at trying to do the right thing.
So, in essence, I welcome OOH measurement. More research is a good thing. To clients, may I suggest that you ask your agencies how much they are discounting the audience of OOH for lack of attentiveness and to agency media people may I strongly recommend that you provide the new data but pre-empt client questions by weighting OOH data down in advance.
If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org