Nielsen’s Accreditation Suspended: Now What?

Good marketing agencies use data to inform their strategy. And at St. Gregory, we pride ourselves on being more than good. Data and quantitative experience are the backbone of the decisions we make on behalf of our clients. However, what happens when there are questions surrounding that data’s integrity? This is exactly what marketing agencies and media buyers around the country were faced with this summer….

In mid-August, Nielsen, the go-to authority on TV ratings, announced a suspension of it’s industry accreditation. Nielsen sought this suspension voluntarily, but only after the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) accused Nielsen of data integrity issues in their own petition for suspension. The VAB had previously pushed for Nielsen to undergo an independent third-party audit after becoming suspicious about reported viewership data in the wake of the pandemic.

Specifically, the VAB believed that Nielsen provided inaccurate depictions of TV usage decline during 2020. They claimed that the data couldn’t be accurate due to the fact that there was an approximately year-long suspension of field servicing to households that are part of Nielsen’s panels. In fact, the VAB believed the inaccurate reporting impacted nearly 10,000 homes (source).

This would mean Nielsen was reporting TV viewership drop-off and thus discouraging media buyers from placing television ad buys. Less viewers would have media buyers looking to other outlets for clients that would put them in front of more eyeballs.

It should be noted that the VAB has a vested interest in seeing higher TV viewership and ratings reported as they are a trade group which promotes broadcast and cable networks and would like to sell advertising for those networks.

These two organizations, the VAB and Nielsen, have clashed before. However, in this case, Nielsen did admit to underreporting and is currently undergoing an audit process to fix these issues and restore data confidence moving forward.

How is St. Gregory responding?

We’re currently not making any drastic changes, although we are closely monitoring the situation. In addition to following the story closely, our media team has attended a WebEx on how Nielsen ratings can be used going forward. At St. Gregory, we believe that continuing education is important in all areas from digital marketing to traditional media to ensure we can provide our clients with the most up-to-date information and tactics. This is just one more example of that.

We also feel that it’s important for our clients to note the following:

The data integrity issues were at the national level. Those approximately 10,000 impacted homes were not local to the Greater Cincinnati area but rather were spread out across the United States. This means that not all markets saw the same downswing. We try to focus on data that is most applicable to our clients; in words, if a client is running a Cincinnati DMA targeted commercial, we’re going to be focused on local data.

The rating data Nielsen provides is a guideline. While we definitely reference it, we do not solely rely on it. We use many different data points in order to put together plans and strategies for our clients. And once a media buy is placed, we constantly monitor the stations and the rating points delivered to ensure our clients are getting what they ordered. By using multiple sources of information as well as our decades of experience, we’re able to spot data anomalies and potential issues and work around them.

While the underreporting by Nielsen is a big deal, it doesn’t have to be earth shattering for your media plan. If you’re working with an experienced agency that has multiple data sources to tap into, they will be able to navigate these tumultuous waters.

Rest assured, at St. Gregory, we are paying close attention to the circumstances surrounding Nielsen and as new developments occur, we will review and act accordingly to ensure our clients marketing budgets are being utilized effectively and efficiently.

If you want those same assurances, we should talk. Schedule a consult with us today.