This is an article I wrote for Mediapost in November 2007 which is still very timely today. The informationn contained in this article will form a good backdrop to a future post - an interview with Daniel Fischer. Stay tuned....
Pod Behavior - And How to Modify It
by Charlene Weisler
AS THE INDUSTRY FOCUSES ON commercial ratings, my company has embarked on a series of research initiatives that shed light on viewer behaviors in and out of pods. Some of our preliminary conclusions are eye-opening and challenge commonly held industry beliefs.
While "C3" " (average commercial with three days of playback) is on the top of everyone's mind, "C3" is fast becoming irrelevant. This is really just an interim step to exact minute. To that end, we have begun to explore behavior within the commercial pods on a minute-by-minute basis to see if there are any patterns that can be tracked and strategically exploited.
Questions asked: Is there a pattern to pod performance? And if so, is it standardized and therefore modifiable? What can be done to mitigate pod erosion and speed rating recovery through the pod?
Using Nielsen N-Power total day, minute by minute demographic ratings, we examined ten networks - five with a target demo of A25-54 and five targeting W25-54. The time frame was four months of the past year - one month of each quarter to take into account any seasonality. Each minute was tagged as majority program, promo or commercial. Pod placement was added. We then compared the last majority program minute to the individual commercial pod minutes through the pod until the first few back-to-program minutes.
Here is what we have found:
• All networks that we examined lost audience going into the pod -- some to a greater extent.
• Generally speaking, commercial pod performance across all these networks have a similar pattern -- an initial deep drop in the first minute (A), another drop in the second minute (B), then a leveling off in performance until a gradual recovery (often, but not always) back to pre-break levels.
• The leveling off in erosion from the "C" position to the end of the pod was notable and might indicate a level of commitment to the program tantamount to affection or engagement. It also says that if a network can hold a viewer in the first two minutes of the pod, it will substantially improve the rest of the pod performance.
• The frequency of the breaks in combination with the lengths of the breaks impacts the level and degree of ratings erosion. In the networks that we examined, we found that longer duration/fewer interruptions generally hold audiences better than shorter/more frequent breaks. Younger-skewing networks may have different patterns of viewing.
• There is no difference in the rating of a promo in the "A" position and an ad in the "A" position. But this does not mean that we advocate replacing promos in A with ads. We are currently experimenting with promo creative that can help improve "A" position performance and thus improve the performance of the entire pod.
Next steps: . Among the many ideas to deal with pod performance include focusing on hard starts and modifying our promo creative based on findings in brain behavior research. It is clear from this preliminary study that we need to concentrate on improving the performance of the "A" position as much as possible because the lower the loss into A, into B, the less the overall loss for the entire pod.