Facebook Is The New Nielsen Family

Facebook Is The New Nielsen Family

By E.B. Boyd for Fast Company

Since the first banner ad alighted on top of a web page sometime around the end of last century, online advertising has been the Rodney Dangerfield of the media world. It gets no respect.

But that might soon change, thanks to a new service from the Nielsen Company. The Online Campaign Ratings system, which rolls out later this month, promises to measure brand advertising online more like the way it measures brand advertising on television–by identifying which demographics actually see each ad.

This will allow advertisers to make apple-to-apple comparisons between the new medium, whose impact on brand advertising has remained elusive, and the old medium, in whose powers brands have complete confidence. As a result, advertisers may finally be willing to invest more online, and possibly even pay more for the privilege.

“A number of impediments have prevented brand advertisers from getting into the deep end with online,” Charles Buchwalter, Nielsen’s senior vice president of Online Campaign Ratings tells Fast Company. “If those impediments weren’t there, you could make a very strong case that brand advertisers would have spent much more money online.”

Television has historically tapped its panels (often referred to as “Nielsen families”), which record exactly who watched any particular episode of television that went out over the airwaves. Online, there simply hasn’t been an efficient way to create such panels.

Enter Facebook. The social network is partnering with Nielsen to provide the demographic data on who sees ads placed around the Internet–even if those ads aren’t placed on Facebook itself–sort of like a real-time, always-on Nielsen family.

Here’s how it works: Advertisers tag their ads and then place them on their targeted sites around the web. When the ads are viewed, the ads make a call to Facebook, which then searches its own user database to identify the viewer of the ad. Facebook then gathers up that person’s demographic information and sends it to Nielsen. Nielsen is then able to report back to advertisers who saw their ads in a particular campaign.

All of this happens while protecting the privacy of both the advertisers and Facebook’s users. The ads don’t pass identifiable information about the campaigns to Facebook, and Facebook doesn’t pass personally identifiable information about the user to Nielsen.

But the system allows Online Campaign Ratings to become the digital equivalent of “gross ratings points,” or GRPs, the system the advertising world has long used to measure television’s reach.

This is an excerpt from Fast Company. Click here for the full article.