VAB Cheers Nielsen’s Reversal On OOH TV Viewing Integration Delay

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In a stunning about-face following backlash and criticism from companies such as ViacomCBS and industry groups including the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB), Nielsen CEO and Chief Diversity Officer David Kenny said it would reinstate its plan to integrate out-of-home viewing into national TV measurement.


In a letter distributed Friday afternoon and shared to the media, Kenny explained how, earlier this week, Nielsen shared news about “a delay” to plans to integrate out-of-home audiences into its national TV currency this fall.

“Our concern was about consumer behavior, and not the Nielsen methodology,” he said. “While out-of-home audiences have been impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic, our methodology is strong and the data is reflective of consumer behavior.”

That said, after speaking with many clients — some of whom were livid over the Nielsen move — and learning more about specific agreements for the 2020-2021 season, “it became clear that we had misunderstood the extent to which upfront deals have already been agreed to using out-of-home metrics.”

Given the circumstances, Kenny added, “we recognize that a delay would cause greater disruption to the industry than maintaining our original plan.”

He also believes that Nielsen “needs to deliver on our promises, so that you can transact with trust and confidence.”

As such, Nielsen will move forward with the integration of out-of-home TV viewing into the national TV currency measurement starting in September 2020, as originally planned.

“We will also provide additional data on out-of-home behavior to help you interpret behavior shifts during the pandemic,” Kenny concluded, while also offering a statement regretting any disruption Nielsen’s decision may have caused. “Going forward, we are committed to ensuring a more complete, inclusive, and transparent process as the currency evolves with changing consumer behavior.”

Call it a victory for the VAB.

‘AN UNFORTUNATE DISTRACTION,’ REMOVED

In a statement distributed Monday (7/13), the VAB pointed out that in a time span just over 30 hours, “the leadership of Nielsen, the primary trading currency provider for the national TV marketplace, first announced a postponement of a planned 2020 improvement in currency data, and then rightly reversed that decision.”

The organization continued, “By agreeing to stay on plan and integrate Out-of-Home viewing data into the national TV currency per its original promised 2020 timing, an unfortunate distraction was quickly removed from the market’s transactional dialogue.”

VAB President/CEO Sean Cunningham added, “While gratified by the speed with which Nielsen reversed their postponement plan, it was crystal clear that a quick reversal was Nielsen’s only viable option. Marketers are deep into planning and activation discussions with their multiscreen TV ad sales partners, the last thing advertisers need in 2020 is an unnecessary step backwards from a currency provider. The TV industry’s solidarity in always pushing for innovation made sure that potential delay was eliminated quickly.”

The VAB on Thursday sent an “urgent” letter to Kenny, with Cunningham slamming Nielsen for its unilateral decision. “We believe it puts all parties in the TV marketplace at an unnecessary disadvantage, and as one of your largest sets of Nielsen customers, we implore you to return to plan: with OOH viewing data fully integrated into a single stream of currency data without postponement or delay,” Cunningham wrote.

This came alongside a statement from ViacomCBS which stated, “Nielsen’s abrupt delay of the long-planned integration of OOH viewing into the National TV currency less than two months before it was scheduled to be implemented is unacceptable and unjustifiable ViacomCBS – along with our peers and the VAB – is calling on Nielsen to reverse its decision.”

That’s exactly what happened late Friday.

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