Improving Local Measurement With Return Path Data

Of all the potential uses of return path data, local measurement arguably offers one of the top initial values. Recently I interviewed Pat Dineen, SVP Nielsen about his work using return path data in conjunction with Nielsen’s current local panel methodologies. Pat spoke of hybridization of return path data (RPD) with the Nielsen panel in all three types of local market methodologies – the People Meter Markets, the Household meter markets and the Diary measured markets. This method offers the ability to include Nielsen demographics while expanding the household sample size.

His interview sparked discussion about how other measurement companies use RPD to measure local markets. In this RPD land rush, it is interesting to note the different approaches. These approaches are often based on availability of tuning data and the types of data streams that are fused or matched to it.

Bruce Gorelich, CRO Rentrak, says that his company has been focused on RPD data for local measurement for well over four years. Rentrak currently has 8 million homes in its measurement footprint (1 in 14 U.S. homes) and this data comes from several sources – Satellite (Dish), Telco (AT&T), MidContinent and FourthWall – which Gorelich says is all available via the interface. Collectively this represents 98% of all residential zipcodes and 90% of all commercially available set top boxes.

Bill Harvey, CRO TRA, notes that TRA now has per-market sample size of over 50,000 homes in 10 markets, over 25,000 homes in 18 markets, 10,000+ in 26 markets, 3000+ in 45 markets and over 1000 homes in 70 markets. One case study enabled an advertiser who does all spending in spot TV to optimize the buy through TRA’s Media TRAnalytics® Optimizer. The client ran hundreds of reports with this granular data to decide what media to place in 37 local markets.

Jeff Boehme, CRO Kantar Media North America, describes their approach with RPD based on satellite & cable homes from both a national and local perspective. DIRECTView‚Ñ¢ is their national service based on a managed sample of 100,000 HHs. Kantar Media is also expanding their local RPD with additional Charter markets totaling 1 million HHs by May of this year. Both services are matched with external datasets to combine audience behavior with product purchases. At this point, Kantar Media is not offering a standalone general market ratings product. According to Boehme, Kantar has  made a strategic decision to partner with Nielsen for local market audience measurement. He says, “If you only have RPD you are missing a piece of over the air which is impractical to model. We have agreed to work with Nielsen to help them enhance their Local Market Service product line and align our RPD with their traditional measurement. We believe that audience measurement will be driven by RPD, especially for the MSOs, satellite and telcos. It doesn’t mean it will replace traditional measurement, it but it will augment and enhance it. RPD is essential for all advanced measurement capabilities for advanced advertising such as addressable, interactive and T- commerce applications.”

Because of the increasing number of data sources, return path data is becoming more ubiquitous and is available across all geographical areas in some form. Rentrak’s Gorelich says while Nielsen builds up the data on the county level, Rentrak builds up the data on the zipcode level. According to Gorelich, “Counties are not as granular a level of neighborhoods as are zip codes. There are approximately 3,143 counties, parishes or independent cities in the United States and there are approximately 32,847 zip codes with at least 1 home in them. There is the potential for more gaps if you design weights around counties rather than zip codes.”

Even within all the different methodologies and the different sources and levels of data available on the local level, the hope for some national clients is that local return path data from its various sources – such as MSO, Telco and Satco - will be prepared in such a way that it can be holistically collected and merged to form a basis for a national measurement. Stay tuned.

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