As those of you with your head in the media game know, there is a major face-off in our industry right now. Nielsen and comScore are going toe-to toe for bragging rights to the most accurate data and audience measurement. Nielsen is the defender, with 66 years of undeniable domination in the category. That’s a long time, my friends.
Personally, I’ve been buying media for more than 40 years and Walz Tetrick is right behind me, having entered the market in the late 1960s. We’ve seen a lot of change, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Media is a reflection of the culture we live in. I always say you can’t get set in your ways if you want to be successful in the media business.
It stands to reason that Nielsen has played a huge role in my media buying history, and we continue to use it effectively for our clients today. However, when it comes to data and measurement for our clients, we need the ratings that most accurately represent the markets we are buying, and we need them to reflect the flights we’re buying. Accuracy and accessibility are key. And powerful though Nielsen is, we find it has some gaps that comScore fills.
Walz Tetrick first started using comScore for audience data analysis in 2014 and for media buys in 2016, making us one of the first agencies in the Midwest to use the tool. It rolled out a new cross-platform tool this year after finalizing its merger with Rentrak, a TV ratings source. Here are a few reasons why we find it useful:
- Provides electronic data collection as opposed to handwritten diaries.
- Automatically collects data during regular TV watching and as users change channels with no user recall necessary.
- Gives flexibility to change programming based on the most current information for a specific DMA and demographic.
- Provides ratings for special programming, like award shows and sporting events, using current instead of formulaic data.
- Provides data that can target specific viewers based on consumer habits, providing a more detailed reflection of our audiences.
On the flip side, Nielsen gets some of its data in smaller markets from handwritten diaries that are not a complete record of household viewing habits and do not capture durations of viewing. People don’t even write checks today, so what makes us think they’ll fill out a Nielsen diary? And, since Nielsen focuses on age and gender along with the handwritten diaries, we find it often undercounts true audiences.
The debate heats up even more in individual local markets. Take our local Kansas City market. With comScore having 181,000 meters and Nielsen 500, comScore is a no-brainer for us here. Because of the large number of homes analyzed, ComScore has extremely stable data and allows us to get granular with reporting—all the way down to the ZIP code level. Additionally, comScore only uses KC market data in the KC market, while Nielsen pulls from donor markets to get a larger sample size. Nielsen’s practice of doing this creates greater risk for margin of error and unreliability.
Nielsen and ComScore are both fighting the good fight to meet the demand for bridging the measurement gap between television and digital. They’re simply going about it in very different ways. At WTA, we challenge ourselves to stray from the same-old, testing and evaluating our strategies with new tools and ways of broadening client messages. At times we find the new tools to be lacking and the old ones more reliable. But in some cases, new ideas take flight and make us even better. This is the case with comScore. At least for now.