Nielsen Single Source or Unity?

Nielsen Single Source or Unity Project data?

Nielsen Single Source or Unity Project data?

It’s a question on the minds of many in the media research community as agencies debate the pros and cons – and costs – of each. Do you need to subscribe to both? Or would one do the job? And if one will do, which one?

As with most such questions, there’s no simple answer: It really depends on what data qualities are important to you.

For instance, there’s no doubt that the Unity Project data, when it becomes available, will be more detailed than Nielsen Single Source. But on the other hand, Nielsen shows actual consumer behaviour, whereas the data from the Unity project will be one step removed.

Right now, confusion reigns and is likely to do so until the Canadian Media Directors’ Council (CMDC) and its partners actually have some Unity data ready for hands-on use. This could take a while, as they’re still debating which methodology will be used to assemble the database, with hopes to make an announcement by the end of the year.

Single source, on the other hand, is already available. This product, as its name implies, gathers all the numbers – audience measurement, consumer attitudes, behaviour and media usage – from a single panel of respondents. PMB, NADbank and BBM RTS (return-to-sample) are other examples of single-source products.

The industry will lose the direct links between product use and media behaviour with The Unity Project – which is basically an attempt to simulate single source by combining data from a variety of sources – but the new data will offer deeper, more detailed consumer information.

Hugh Dow, president of Toronto’s M2 Universal and head of the CMDC committee behind the Unity Project, says Nielsen’s Toronto Single Source covers more generic product usage categories than will be available with the Unity research product.

‘PMB, NADbank and RTS go into much more detail in frequency of use of products and brands and, in the case of the local data, which particular retail outlets were used.’

But Lisa Eaton, Markham, Ont.-based VP client services at Nielsen Media Research, counters that ‘single source is considered to be the highest, the best source of data about a particular panel because you are asking your actual respondents themselves.’

The competition will heat up a notch when Nielsen launches its own fusion product, likely early next year. That data will link the television viewing habits of Nielsen’s people meter panel with HomeScan data from ACNielsen, which provides actual product and brand-purchase information. The HomeScan data is created when its consumer panel scans all purchases made.

In the end, Sarah Ivey, VP strategic planning with Initiative Media in Toronto, says there will likely be room for both.

‘You have a portrait in psychographics and media use with Unity data, and a portrait of actual behaviour and media use with Nielsen. I really don’t see them as the same product and I think they’re both attractive.’

But Ivey says what she really wants is the ability to prove the recency theory of ad scheduling (a less-is-more theory that an ad message sells when it reaches the consumer when they’re ready to buy), and to that end, Nielsen’s HomeScan product will be the best means to observe the actual purchase effect of advertising.

Single Source vs. Unity: A point-by-point comparison
  Nielsen Media Research Toronto Single Source The Unity Project
Region Toronto/Hamilton Nielsen TV people meter panel (aged 18+) National
Database A standalone database delivered to subscribers on a CD each month A consumer database designed to work with syndicated media research
Audience Audience specific to television viewing only Compatible with all audience measurement studies for all media
Updates Continuous true respondent viewing and behaviour Database updated according to survey schedules of PMB, NADbank, and BBM RTS
Media Television, general newspaper reading, radio listening, direct-mail use Specific media usage data
Demographics 20 different demographic definitions Standard industry-wide demographic classifications
Product usage Broad product-usage categories National and local detailed product and brand usage, and retail outlet data at the local level