I talk here on Madison Ave Insights a good amount about digital, social media, and mobile advertising trends and developments, and how they are changing the industry. Advertisers are shifting dollars from traditional print and television to online media outlets and novel platforms – that is no question. However, televisions are still in nearly every home in America, tuned to leading sitcoms, special programming, news, and sports. So, how do advertisers determine which programs are worth allocating ad dollars to in order to reach target audiences? Cue Sweeps periods.
The Way I See It
- I see Sweeps, which are a data-collection periods used to determine local viewing information and provide a basis for scheduling programs – what gets renewed and what gets cancelled – and making advertising decisions for local television stations and cable systems, as a sort of precursor to the type of data-collection processes that advertisers are able to initiate online and on mobile.
- I see many arguing that Sweeps are an outdated process and one that are no longer relevant in the age of new consumer data and because viewers can be determined through other aspects, especially given the new “second screen” trend of using social media to discuss TV programming while watching.
The Way The Industry Sees It
I sat down with Matt Seiler, CEO of Mediabrands, Interpublic’s media-buying division, to discuss the upcoming annual Sweeps periods and the relevance for the advertising and entertainment industries.
How and when did the Sweeps process begin? How have they evolved over the years to remain effective?
The concept of sweep periods are almost as old as television measurement itself. Nielsen began sending out viewing paper diaries in 1954 to capture demographic information, a practice that continues today in the smaller TV markets—almost sixty years later. Because the data is only collected at certain times of the year, networks and stations tend to heavy up on first-run and special programming in order to influence the ratings. This is especially mind-boggling when you consider that top and mid-tier markets are being measured electronically, fifty-two weeks per year. In terms of evolution over the years, there’s been virtually none, and better measurement of local television is something we strongly believe in. To Nielsen’s credit, they are currently exploring different forms of improved electronic measurement in smaller markets and we are involved in several committees to help guide the process.
How important are the Sweeps periods and data collected for advertisers in terms of allocating spend? Are there other factors that impact that decision as well?
To our dismay, it is still a significant consideration for our local investment staff because of the nature of the measurement. However, it is hardly the only factor involved in their decision-making, as we leverage all of the data at our disposal to help us buy smarter.
How does viewer information impact advertising creative and direction?
In today’s on-demand environment, we have the opportunity to understand better than ever how and when creative resonates with viewers. Did they watch the ad in playback? Did they seek it out online? How does positioning impact commercial viewing? These are all things to consider, especially as we move closer to dynamic ad insertion.
Has the popularity of digital, social media, and mobile changed the overall effectiveness of Sweeps periods and the value of the data? In what ways are the Sweeps periods still relevant for advertisers?
Yes, things have certainly changed, but in terms of measurement, they haven’t changed enough. Frankly, the sweeps periods are much more important than they should be considering it is a complete anachronism. Viewers aren’t constrained by time, so why should measurements be?
What is the coolest object in your office right now?
My round table. It functions like the best of kitchen tables in that everyone congregates around it. It’s the coolest because of the ideas born at it every day. It’s my engine.