Nielsen Evolves Towards Portable People Meter, What Could Go Wrong

The planned introduction of the portable people meter is great news for the stations and cable channels involved. Never mind that The Council for Research Excellence has raised questions about the accuracy of this system, because the industry has such a strong track record in being honest about viewership numbers, media costs and so much more.

Read More: Q&A: Faisal Sheikh talks Digital Strategy and a need for More Creativity

The portable people meters will probably “find” 15-20% more “viewers” than were reported previously and for some ad sellers their numbers may double.


But how do we know that a person who wears or carries a PPM is actually “watching” the TV screen when the PPM “hears” an embedded audio signal in the program or commercial content?

The answer is – we don’t.
Nor has the core assumption – that the Portable People Meter wearer/carrier always watches when the device picks up an audio signal from a TV program source been validated. Isn’t it about time that this was done – especially for times when commercials are on – or are advertisers willing to pay through the nose for unknown numbers of “phantom viewers”?

This is about as valid as Google’s beacons in location based advertising taking credit for footfall wherein the link between impression and walk in is considered a success without looking at whether a purchase was made (measuring contextual relevancy) or considered.

Like in the case of Nielsen’s PPM, much of this is encircled around a self serving narrative that allows companies like Google to take credit on conversions they merely assisted on. That by simply walking past the beacon, it can fire off a signal that in turn allows the inventory seller to take full credit of being contextually accurate also comes into play.


Paid search listings don’t have any influence on the final sale when the user searches for faded jeans and then buys a dress at H&M. PPM’s like new promises like this one represent just another form of cooking stuffing that results in weak online attribution metrics to in-store sales, weighing down on marketers to wipe out brick & mortar.

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Babar Khan Javed

Babar Khan Javed

Babar Khan Javed is a Correspondent for Branding In Asia.

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