Some digital advertising is moving back to TV: Nielsen’s Steve Hasker

India is a very important market for Nielsen, says global president and chief operating officer Steve Hasker


Nielsen Holding global president and chief operating officer Steve Hasker. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Nielsen Holding global president and chief operating officer Steve Hasker. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Steve Hasker, global president and chief operating officer at Nielsen Holding plc, was in India to meet clients and speak on the growing importance of mobile in advertising at the Mobile Marketing Association conference in Gurgaon.

During the trip, he met executives from PepsiCo, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser, Tata group, BARC India and Facebook, among others.

“India is a very important market for us. The visit was to ensure our success continues and we stay connected with clients,” Hasker said as he explained the importance of Nielsen’s newly launched Total Audience Measurement tool in the US.

Steve Hasker, 46Hasker was appointed global president and chief operating officer in December 2015. He oversees Nielsen’s commercial and product-related activities globally for both the media and consumer businesses. He joined Nielsen in 2009 from McKinsey and Co., where he was a partner in McKinsey’s Global Media, Entertainment and Information practice. He lectures regularly at Columbia University and NYU.

Edited excerpts:

What does Total Audience Measurement include?

Total Audience Measurement, that’s been launched in the US, has the ability to measure any piece of video, audio or text, on any device at any time and to do it seamlessly and consistently. It has an advertising measurement component and a content measurement component and the ability to put them together. It obviously has a TV, PC, connected device and tablet, and smartphone component and in the US, we have rolled out all those pieces.

Here in India, we have started with the digital ad ratings. So, we started with the advertising component. In the coming months, we look to launch the content ratings. 

But Total Audience Measurement is more than just digital?

What Total Audience Measurement does is, it takes all the digital touch points and combines with TV advertising. So, for any campaign, an agency will say, okay, I should think about TV relative to these digital touch points. Should I buy more TV or less TV? This is very important because different markets have different objectives in terms of reach and frequency. Right now, Total Audience Measurement is available in the US; but we have also launched in Mexico and a version of it in Brazil.

When will you introduce it in India?

To a large extent, that is dependent on BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council). They have the TV data. In theory, we could do it today because BARC data and digital ad ratings are consistent; but it requires an advertiser to put those two together.

Is linear TV declining?

What we have seen in a number of countries is the pressure on TV ratings. The size and frequency of audiences watching television has come under pressure in some of the more developed markets like the US, UK and Australia. And that has meant growth in terms of time spent on digital devices. 

However, what marketers are trying and have now started to understand is that TV has a reasonably unique value proposition in terms of the ability to tell a story to consumers in a way that is accepted by them. And that many large brand campaigns need a TV component. So, the ability to come out of TV altogether and going to digital was overstated. Particularly in 2016 in many markets, we have seen a reversion back to TV and more reliance on TV from an advertising perspective. 

But the UK and US numbers suggest digital ad revenue has surpassed TV numbers.

In the UK, digital surpassed TV a number of years ago; and in the US, it has surpassed in the past 18 months. Those numbers are for real. But this year, in what we call the upfronts which is the mechanism of buying and selling advertising on TV in US, we have seen some reversion back to TV. What a number of major advertisers found that they probably swung the pendulum too far toward digital; and in doing so, they saw some decrease in reach of their campaigns to their target audience. 

Was losing India’s TV market to BARC a big setback for Nielsen?

We certainly enjoyed being part of the TAM joint venture (between Nielsen and Kantar Media owned by WPP Plc) for quite a long period of time. We are very supportive of BARC. We met BARC and have a good relationship. We’d like to help them if we can. So we are looking forward. We think there’ll be an opportunity to do that. 

Which are the successful digital models globally? 

What we have seen in the last couple of years in the US and many countries is the emergence of truly spectacular digital models. One of course is Google with its search model that’s been extended to YouTube. And the second is Facebook. In fact, Google, Facebook and, increasingly, Snapchat are proving to be very successful digital models partly because they have attracted disproportionate amounts of consumer time and attention and partly because they have an economic model which is very efficient. Facebook announced last week it had 4 million advertisers. And one of the great things about Facebook and Google platforms is that for an advertiser, they are extremely easy to use. You can target a particular audience and you can buy using your credit card… So for advertisers and agencies, it is a great model. It is also a highly profitable model.

What about newspaper publishers?

It is more difficult for traditional publishers—newspapers or magazines or what we call pure play digital content websites and portals because the audiences access their content through Google, Facebook and Snapchat. In other words, the means in which they get content is through one of these larger players and, secondly, the time and attention is smaller on their properties.

So, what’s their future?

In an increasingly fragmented and complicated world, great journalism, great video production, great TV production is not easier to do. So, even though we have got this great democratization of information and it is freely available in many different places, the ability to interpret news and write insightful commentary around the news, does not become easier in that environment. So, the value attached to that goes up not down.

What’s happened here is that there’s been a significant disruption in the distribution mechanism; so, whether it is a newspaper or a TV channel , or magazine, consumers now have many different ways to get to that content but, ultimately, the content itself has to be incredibly valuable. And now, done properly, there are more ways to monetize great journalism than there were previously. 

Right now, what media formats is venture capital (VC) chasing?

VCs are very good at sniffing out areas of growth. So they are focused on a couple of things—one is video. That is, players who are in the digital video space, either producing or distributing video content. Secondly, they are focused on players who have interesting data sets—on consumer identity or consumer behaviour—purchase behaviour or media consumption behaviour. The other place VCs are more focused on is fintech—like mobile payments and also on healthcare related apps and start-ups.

Nielsen acquired Indicus Analytics in India. Are you eyeing more firms here?

We would like to make more, provided they enhance our business and make sense financially. For us, India is a very important market. 

What is the next big thing for Nielsen?

The big area of focus for us will be the connected system. We have two businesses. One measures media behaviour, the other measures consumption of consumer packaged goods and provides all kinds of analytics around that. In the media business, the big investment is Total Audience Measurement, and, as we said, we have rolled that out in many countries and we are in the process of bringing that to India. 

The second area is to build the connected system which links the market share data to explanatory analytics. Say, for instance, did the market share of Kinley water go up because of better product innovation like a new bottle size, different packaging or concept, or did it go up because its marketing has been more effective—there’s been more money on digital and more money on TV. Or did it go up because of in-store execution, its pricing, promotion and assortment was better. So, the connected system will, in real time, enable the brand manager of a particular brand to understand how am I doing—what happened, why did it happen and what should I do next.

So, we’re in the process of prototyping this with a number of clients across the world and we would look to introduce this here in India sometime next year. We are piloting it with six clients at the moment in different parts of the world. This is our biggest area of investment for the next five years.

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