TVB urges 4-P meters

The head of the tvb says the broadcasting industry has no choice but to respond to pressure from ad agencies and clients to implement an electronic form of tv audience measurement.Cameron Fellman, president of the Television Bureau of Canada, says the...

The head of the tvb says the broadcasting industry has no choice but to respond to pressure from ad agencies and clients to implement an electronic form of tv audience measurement.

Cameron Fellman, president of the Television Bureau of Canada, says the organization’s long-range plan, released earlier this year, shows clients have ‘lost confidence in the currency used to buy media.’

At the moment in Canada, BBM Bureau of Measurement monitors tv audiences at the market and network level with paper diaries.

Rival A.C. Nielsen uses electronic people meters to measure tv viewing at the network level only.

The marketing and advertising working group, of which Fellman is chairman (founded in response to Communication Canada’s call last year for an industrial strategy), will recommend the federal department underwrite the development costs of a Canadian electronic system of measurement.

Fellman says the ability to accurately and continuously measure television audiences is, for advertisers and agencies, the fundamental issue of the 1990s.

What the tvb is recommending be adopted in Canada are personal passive portable people meters.

More accurate

These electronic devices – an update on the people meter system launched in Canada in 1989 – are considered more accurate than the diary system of measurement because they can monitor what respondents are watching without the viewer having to record his or her choices manually.

A version of the passive meter will be tested this fall, but it is estimated to be three to four years away from widespread use.

(Until then, Fellman’s working group recommends the broadcast industry ‘should make a significant investment in upgrading the current diary system to ease respondent burden and confusion and to improve accuracy and quality.’)

Benefits

Fellman says mathematical accuracy is just one of the benefits of an electronic system of measurement.

He says that once relieved of the burden of having to record viewing patterns, respondents may be more open to answering questions about their shopping habits and values.

This would provide advertisers with a single source of information that would allow them to target their advertising buys more effectively.

Fellman says it would also benefit the television industry because in the absence of qualitative data, clients will continue to look to media buyers to buy airtime at the lowest possible price.

In the meantime, tvb is working with The Media Center, an offshoot of the u.s. television bureau, to establish database profiles of 40 to 45 industries.

Fellman says the intention is to provide local tv stations with up-to-date category information that will allow their sales representatives to better understand their client’s business and, ultimately, boost sales.

Customer profiles

The database will include customer profiles (who is the most likely buyer of a particular product or service) and executional details of sales promotions used by other tv stations, that users could adapt to their own market.

Fellman says the database will be tested this month, but he adds he does not expect the system to be fully operational until sometime next year.

At that point, tvb will decide whether to provide stations with on-line access via the phone or download the information to a compact disk.

Fellman says restoring advertiser confidence in television is going to take time, but adds tvb is up to the task.

‘We’re prodding the industry in terms of looking at new techniques, new ways in which we’re going to have to do business,’ he says.