Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Nielsen Co.: Dave Thomas

The responsibility of media outlets is to serve the public, or their audience. Yet those who produce media need to know who, when and how large that audience is.

Global Media Client Services President Dave Thomas said his organization is founded upon the two pillars of the media business and consumer marketing, and helps to answer those questions for their clients.

Thomas said Nielsen Co. was founded prior to the invention of television in the 1920’s. Nielsen workers would meticulously enumerate individual supplies in grocery stores in order to find out which items were being sold, what prices were and who the true competitors were.

Today, though the Nielsen organization is noted for their measurement of television ratings, they are utilizing what Thomas calls the “three screen approach” to media. Television, mobile phone and internet users are the three ways consumers get entertainment and information, Thomas said.

As newspapers, radio stations and television stations begin to span multiple mass mediums in order to reach their audience, Thomas said television still rules the roost in media today because of its accessibility to all consumers.

“Our clients expect us to provide that comprehensive view,” Thomas said, and his company has noticed a trend towards more and more viewers watching television programming online or via mobile devices.

While the famed Nielsen ratings are still the industry benchmark for measuring success, technology like digital video recorders and people leaving cable receivers on while not watching television make it difficult for the company to monitor the public’s media behaviors.

“If [consumers] fast forward through commercials, [they are] not accounted for in the audience,” Thomas said.

According to Nielsen data, Thomas said, 30 percent of Americans utilize digital video recorders to time shift programs. Programmers, advertisers and his company have been forced to adjust strategies to account for this technology, Thomas said.

Thomas said his company has begun to utilize ping-back signals, which sends out information to Nielsen when consumers are exposed to certain content, to measure online activity. Nielsen also counts ratings for programs as they run live plus an additional three days.

As technology changes, Thomas said, Nielsen will continue to evolve with consumer habits.

-Derek Casanovas and Jasmine Linabary

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