Remembering the Tragic, Shocking Death of Princess Diana (August 31, 1997)
Israeli Team Massacred at 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich (September 5, 1972)

Nielsen Introduces Its Peoplemeter (August 31, 1987)

Nielsen_peoplemeter Nielsen inaugurated its national peoplemeter service on Aug. 31, 1987 while I was away on vacation in London.  I read about this advance in audience measurement in the international edition of USA Today.  Of course, since TV research was the focus of my job I had been well aware of this change for many months.  This change in measurement was a change that ad agencies had sought for a while since the previous method collected demographic data using an inferior paper and pencil method that relied on a person's memory.  The Big 3 networks, however, were resistant because the peoplemeter would likely result in lower ratings for them and higher ratings for cable networks.


This trip to the UK was my first abroad, a trip I won as grand prize winner of the United Way drawing the previous Christmas at my previous employer, ad agency Young & Rubicam.  And although I had changed jobs since winning it, Y&R graciously honored my prize.  It was a week-long trip for two, including business class travel on TWA and hotel accommodations in the tony Knightsbridge section of London (near Harrod's).  


But enough about my good fortune.  The peoplemeter was a big advance in how TV advertising was bought since it provided ratings for the people who were viewing shows rather than just their household.  It also provided this information much more quickly.  What made this change even more interesting was the fact that big, bad Nielsen briefly had a competitor in the U.S., a British company called AGB Research.  AGB had introduced the peoplemeter to our shores earlier in the year. 




The agency I worked at, the now defunct NWAyer, purchased both services, so our TV analyses compared the ratings of both (although Nielsen was what all national TV buys were made on).  However, AGB went out of business in the spring of 1988 since it was unable to get enough companies to buy its service, especially once Nielsen developed similar technology.  Alas, in the years to come this fate would befall other research companies that attempted to compete against the Nielsen Company.  (25 years later a competitor called Rentrak would prove more tenacious.)


History of tv


Finally, two pop culture references from that week in 1987 bring to mind Nielsen's new peoplemeter.  The day before leaving for London I went with friends to see the movie Dirty Dancing, which had opened that weekend.  And while in London Rick Astley's record Never Gonna Give You Up was a smash hit and I bought the single at the Tower Records store in Piccadilly.  It became an equally big hit in the US shortly after I returned.









Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


The lack of speed on adoption inside this space is amazing to me. Did you read the comment that TIVO's CEO made, "the lack of technology in media analytics is mind boggling."

I am working on something and would love your thoughts and insight. Let me know when you have a second to chat.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)