Facebook and the Nielsen Co. today unveiled an alliance that will bring attitudinal and purchase intent surveys to Facebook's 300 million-strong audience, the companies announced today at Advertising Week in New York.
That initiative, called Nielsen BrandLift, represents a first step in a research collaboration that will eventually include other facets.
For Facebook, the relationship could be the key to earning the trust of agencies and clients. For Nielsen, it establishes a link with one of the Web's largest sites (Facebook commands 14.7 percent of all U.S. display ad views, Nielsen says), and one that has been something of a black hole when it comes to measuring ad effectiveness.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said several brands have already conducted tests of BrandLift, gleaning intent-to-purchase data. Procter & Gamble's Secret deodorant brand did so, discovering that 11 percent of survey respondents were "extremely likely" to buy Secret. In the brand's core demo of 18 to 34 year old women, that intent-to-purchase figure was 33 percent, she said.
Sony Pictures used the research product to assess its summer movie promotions. According to the studio's CEO, Michael Lynton, Facebook campaigns for "District 9," "The Ugly Truth," and "Julie & Julia" performed well, by Nielsen's measure. In the case of "The Ugly Truth," Lynton said after seeing an ad on Facebook, women 34 and over were more than 80 percent more likely to see the movie. "We never see that," he said.
As part of the collaboration, two-question surveys will appear on Facebook's site in standard ad positions. Available to all advertisers in the coming months, they'll measure aided awareness, ad recall, message association, brand favorability, and purchase consideration.
However, the BrandLift research may raise some challenges from a methodology standpoint. For instance, much attitudinal research conducted by Dynamic Logic and others examines ad exposure across an array of sites. Is it possible that, by focusing its efforts on only Facebook, Nielsen may fail to address the impact of similar ads on other properties?
"The hard part from a media planning standpoint is that it's such a small part of the buy," said Kelly Twohig, SVP, strategy director at Starcom Worldwide.
In reply to that question, Nielsen Online CEO John Burbank told ClickZ News, "We always say that nothing's pure and nothing's perfect, but we're confident enough of the scale that we feel that's not an issue."
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.