Portable People Meters Prompt Panic in Canuck Advertisers

03 August 2004

The Association of Canadian Advertisers has issued a 'health warning' to its members about the new electronic Portable People Meter system used by TV viewing researcher BBM Canada.

The ACA is concerned that the new system -- based on an electronic pager system that automatically identifies the TV channels watched by its wearers -- has not been tested with sufficient rigor.

Complains the ACA: "Though BBM had assured ACA that testing in our areas of concern would be undertaken, its board last week approved the deployment before these tests have been concluded.

"This is particularly troubling since this device is still in test mode in its country of origin [the US] and elsewhere, and has once been rejected. It is now currently being retested by RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) in the UK."

The ACA's publicly voiced concern will not please British media megaphone Kelvin MacKenzie, a former Murdoch tabloid newspaper editor turned Murdoch radio chief. MacKenzie is a vociferous advocate of PPMs, not least because the system shows his minority TalkSport radio station in a more favorable light than the official RAJAR data.

He is currently engaged in noisy litigation against RAJAR in an effort to force it into premature use of PPMs. The case is due for a court hearing in November, although few observers of the UK media scene believe it will see light of day, dismissing the lawsuit as a mere negotiating ploy.

Meantime, back in Toronto the ACA explained to its members: "[We are] taking this rare step because [we] believe that BBM has not fulfilled its responsibility by not fully testing this new technology prior to deploying it for use as the trading currency in Quebec. [Furthermore] BBM's decision was taken with very little input from the advertiser community."

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff