Sticks and Stones

One thing I love about TV (and there are lot of things besides just veg’ing out in front of one, which I highly recommend), is all the ways it can deliver value to marketers beyond just audience levels. A couple of ways it can do this are captured in Rentrak’s weekly release with Bluefin Labs on Stickiness and Social Media. (Hence the allusion in this blog’s title for those not quick of mind – “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me.”)

Stickiness equals engagement. And engagement delivers more impact for advertisers. Stickiness is a measurement of time spent viewing. The value of time spent viewing a program for an advertiser is that the more time a person chooses to spend with the program, the more impactful the ads are in that program (see footnote for more on this). Because the Stickiness Index is based on time spent, and the range of most programs is up to 180 minutes, its indices do not go beyond that.

The Social Media Index measures chatter about TV telecasts. Chatter equals “what’s remarkable” – quite literally, these are the TV episodes and events that evoke remarks from the audience. The Social Media Index is important for advertisers who want to be topical. Bluefin Labs tracks comments made on Twitter and public Facebook accounts about TV programs within +/- 3 hours of the telecast airing window. Programs that generate the most social media comments will have a higher Social Media Index rating. The Social Media Index covers a range from 0 to many thousands; its value indicates the amount of social media “chatter” that a given TV show is generating relative to all the shows that were discussed via social media.

So here we have two metrics, involvement and remarkability. How do these metrics relate to each other? To overall ratings? To DVR recording? In short, how can these be leveraged? To help look at this, we went over 12 weeks of our summer Engagement reports.

In terms of the traditional metrics of viewership, ratings and DVR lift, the Bluefin Labs Social Media Index doesn’t connect in a simplistic way with ratings and DVR playback. (In each chart, a dot is a program, with the vertical axis being the Bluefin Labs Social Media Index, and the horizontal axis being either DVR playback lift, or ratings. Some programs are labeled so I can hammer home my points.)

The chart below doesn’t show much more social chatter as DVR playback increases. Why is this? Well the most talked about programs were the Olympics and NBA Finals, with one special event. And sports (and other live events), aren’t recorded and played back at high levels. (“Don’t tell me what happened!”) But sports are talked about. Consumers tend to tweet about TV when they are watching live. When watching live, people tweet because they can have a shared TV experience with others; the TV content “syncs” everyone. When consumers watch via DVR, they tend not to tweet because there’s no notion of the shared experience.

When we look at ratings and social media chatter, the same phenomenon continues. There is a bit of step function and the high-rated events just pop out in terms of “internet water cooler chatter.”

The multiple leverage value of sporting events continues when we look at the interaction of Rentrak’s Stickiness and Bluefin Labs’ Social Media Index.

We can see program involvement scoring high with these mega sports events, both in terms of Engagement – eyes staying on the screen – and the Social Media Index – talking about the game around the virtual water cooler. When you throw in the high ratings, no wonder sports events can get those high CPM’s.

Just a final note – we will go back in later this quarter to do a special look at these metrics for new season programs. The Olympics and the NBA were so strong this summer, they swamped out a detailed look at the power of engagement and chat on regular series – where a lot of action happens!

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

Footnote: This goes back to work done at Zenith Optimedia where the agency showed that if one person chose to watch only the first 15 minutes of a program, and a second person watched the full 30 minutes of the program, and both were asked to recall an advertisement which ran in the first 15 minutes, the second persons’ recall of the ad was much higher.


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