Yesterday it was announced that Group M is cutting deals with TV vendors to use C7 ratings instead of C3. For the uninitiated, this refers to Nielsen ratings guarantees for commercial ratings that includes live viewing and played back within seven days (C7) or three days (C3) from DVRs. Back in 2007 when C3 ratings were first served up Group M quickly forced this new measure into their upfront deals before the industry was ready. There wasn’t much enthusiasm from other agencies at the time and most researchers felt it was premature but Group M’s Rino Scanzoni plowed ahead and C3 became the new currency. I think part of the rationale was that in most cases C3 ratings were fairly similar to Live program (not commercial) ratings—which were the norm to that point. Making the shift from Live to C3 meant no real change in economics for the vendors and an easier transition for the agency. I remember when peoplemeters were introduced to replace the old diary method. Many TV programs’ ratings took nosedives due to passive measurement. One of the challenges for agencies then was year-to-year comparison of different methodologies AND explaining to their clients why the ‘old’ numbers were so far off from reality, thus questioning the recommendations made by the agency. By using a measure (C3) that was similar, by happenstance, to the old measurement (Live) in 2007 the agencies avoided this controversy. Could that have been the reason C3 was forced on the industry?
Now with Group M pushing for C7 I am questioning why and for the benefit of whom? Obviously TV vendors are the biggest beneficiaries because they can monetize four more days of commercial playback. But why is an agency pushing a methodology that could harm their clients financially? Whose priorities are they concerning themselves with? Certainly not a client with time sensitive campaigns. What value is there in an ad promoting a sale that is over within the 7 day window? Of course that was the case—but lesser so—with 3 day playback.
Group M has a self-serving interest in TV ratings being high. It validates the largest part of their business model. It perpetuates their existence, as it does for all mega-media agencies with deeply entrenched TV buying units. But in doing this they may be in conflict with their client’s interests.