Mixed Messages from US Audiences

06 September 2005

US advertisers can take heart from a new report that says television viewers are less free and easy with the off switch during commercial breaks than previously thought.

A study by the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers shows average audience fall-off is only 5%. But it also shows a big variation among individual programs, where as many as half of viewers may switch off during commercials.

The report analyzed ratings data from Nielsen Media Research for the spring and fall periods of 2004. It shows 4% of the 15,585 telecasts monitored lost 20% or more of their audiences. Forty-five percent of the shows, however, lost between 5-20% of their audiences when commercials aired.

Broadcast TV had a better hold on the key 18-34 male viewers, while cable television was more successful with the 25-54 female audience.

  • Meanwhile, the Advertising Research Foundation in the US has rapped media audience measurement methods as "inadequate".

    A survey by the group says advertisers are most dissatisfied with television ratings and want sample sizes and quality of audiences increased, together with better measurement of local TV audiences.

    Those questioned are also critical of slow response among ratings data providers to changing technologies, such as personal video recorders and video-on-demand.

    The radio audience measurement method of paper diaries was labelled "flawed and outdated" by the survey, and respondents want to speed up the change to electronic meters.

    Online audience measurement was described as incompatible with that of other mainstream media. One of the two leading measurement systems in the US is not currently audited by a regulator.

    Print audience measurement was criticised for not measuring magazine audiences adequately and the turnaround time being too slow.

    The ARF says will use the results of the survey to launch an audience measurement initiative to address the problems raised.

    Data sourced from Adweek (USA) and Brand Republic (UK); additional content by WARC staff