Advertising company signs on for Stop Watch

Interpublic Group, the No. 3 ad conglom, has become the first advertising holding company to subscribe to TiVo’s Stop Watch service, which promises second-by-second data on the viewing habits of its users.

Deal, funded by IPG’s Los Angeles-based Emerging Media Lab, will give all of IPG’s buying agencies, including Magna Global, Initiative and Universal McCann, access to detailed information on how fast-forwarding affects commercial ratings.

The data, derived from a random and anonymous sample of 20,000 TiVo units, includes program ratings, commercial ratings and a variety of viewing intervals from live to seven days after the initial broadcast.

Because the data is second-by-second, compared with Nielsen Media Research’s minute-by-minute data, it allows detailed analysis of how consumers behave during individual 30-second spots.

What’s more, the sample of DVR users is much larger than Nielsen’s sample. About 12% of Nielsen’s 11,000 households have DVRs, which reflects their prevalence in the general population.

“Right now, 40% of viewing in DVR homes is time-shifted; in this type of environment, we have nothing that is able to measure how people are watching TV,” said Steve Sternberg, exec VP of audience analysis at Magna Global.

With second-by-second data, advertisers are also able to measure the performance of specific ads within shows. Sternberg is expecting to find that ads perform differently in different types of shows, or in different positions within an advertising break.

But since the data comes from a pool of TiVo users, it reflects the behavior of a group more affluent than the general TV population. For that reason, the data will be useful for analysis, but not as a currency for buying and selling ads.

“It’s not representative of the country, but it’s a robust sample,” Sternberg said. “The DVR home is more upscale than the average household.”

Advertisers are eager to buy time based on commercial ratings, and the broadcast networks have said they are ready to do deals on that basis, rather than simply on program ratings.

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