Startup Uses Internet to Measure TV Ad Effectiveness

As the Web struggles to prove its own worth to advertisers, a New York-based startup, Intermedia Advertising Group, is aiming to use the medium to measure television’s effectiveness.

With clients including Coca-Cola, Unilever and Tricon, IAG this week released its flagship product, TrendReporter, which uses online quizzes and games to provide data on consumers’ response to primetime network TV ads.

The company’s consumer site, RewardTV, tests advertising recall, advertising “wear-out” and message decay, as well as effectiveness on different demographics and when paired with different shows. And perhaps most importantly, it could serve as a gauge for which ads were actually seen and noticed by consumers — or whether they were, say, in the bathroom during a commercial break.

In return for answering questions and playing games, the site offers incentives like movie tickets, discount phone service, and home electronics.

Ideally, the setup is intended to help combat declining attentiveness and, as the economic climate encourages clients to restrict their budgets to better-performing creatives and media, respond to increased demands for accountability. Indeed, some studies place television brand recall at lower than 25 percent.

Proving television’s value to advertising has become especially critical for the networks, which this season have seen a severe downturn in ad revenue. Industry-watchers like Universal McCann’s Robert Coen and independent analyst Jack Myers remain bearish on network TV, while highlighting rival cable and local television as the sector’s relative bright spots.

The Web, too, has taken a significant chunk out of television’s audience. A study by researchers at UCLA found that Internet users watch 4.5 fewer hours of television than do non-Internet users. About a third of Internet users also report watching less TV.

Still, while there would appear to be significant demand, a proposition like IAG’s does also face sizable competition. Most ad agency groups maintain their own time-tested advertising effectiveness research units, which use and continually refine decades-old tools like surveys and focus groups.

Additionally, offline research giants like VNU, the parent of Nielsen Media Research, and a bevy of similar outfits are adding new online-tracking components to their own services — increasing the opportunity for advertisers to track cross-media purchases.

Yet IAG says its methods are more effective than its entrenched rivals.

“While I was at [General Motors], we spent over $1 billion/year on TV ads, and had nothing that compares with IAG’s system,” said Philip Guarascio, a member of IAG’s board of directors and a former vice president of corporate advertising and marketing at GM. “I believe it will become known as a significant step in helping advertisers and networks understand their advertising and programming, and importantly, in this dynamic marketplace, help clarify the relationship between ads, content, attentiveness and sales.”

The group also has its share of big-name supporters, chief among which is the WPP Group and its research division, the Kantar Group. Additional shareholders include executives from the Walt Disney Company, News Corp. and other major networks.

And the company’s initial clients report that they’re happy with the results.

“IAG has developed a system that provides a promising application to the way we measure the effectiveness of our television advertising,” said Debbie Myers, vice president of media, entertainment and licensing for Tricon’s Taco Bell Corp. “We’re pleased with the results we’ve seen so far.”

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