Facebook and Nielsen are in the early stages of creating a new online data panel designed to help brands on the social site better measure their ads. Having worked together since September 2009, the development marks the companies' increasingly tight relationship on the consumer data front.
Matthew Chelser, a financial analyst for Deutsche Bank Equity Research who covers Nielsen's activities, was one of 300-odd advertising players who last week attended the "Facebook Studio Live" presentation in New York. The presentation was delivered by Facebook executives such as Carolyn Everson (head of ad sales), Jennifer Kattula (manager of agency marketing), and Blake Chandlee (sales VP for Asia Pacific and Latin America).
"Facebook told us that a top priority for them in 2011 was getting the metrics right," Chelser said. "Measurement companies like Nielsen are a core part of that, as [Facebook focuses] on building out their advertising products. Six months ago, this relationship was at a much earlier stage. Now, they've gone through testing and are about ready to implement [the panel]."
Facebook and Nielsen declined to comment for this story. But from Facebook's remarks at the event, Chelser said it appears the two are in the early stages of creating a system akin to traditional media's gross point rating (GRP) that they believe will facilitate greater brand spend on the platform.
"It's the development of a currency for online advertising," Chelser said. "It has the characteristics to what buyers use for traditional media. You can negotiate against it; you can measure against it; you can post against it; you can offer 'make-goods' if delivery doesn't meet the guarantee."
Chelser said Facebook didn't disclose the size of the panel or whether consumer recruits will be compensated. He said panelists will opt in to letting Nielsen track them on all websites, while suggesting offline purchase behavior could be collected via surveys as well. If effective, the panel will help brands connect the dots to learn which online consumers are most likely to become product purchasers.
"Through this process, you have to believe they'll find a way to ask people actually where they live and other relevant information to fill out the demographic profile," he said. "It has the potential to provide a comprehensive solution at scale… It will help marketers target. It will affect the buying and selling of advertising of all Internet properties. Not just Facebook."
The panel represents an evolution of a relationship that began 20 months ago, when Facebook and Nielsen allied to bring attitudinal and purchase intent surveys to Facebook's burgeoning audience. The partnership has also resulted in reports such as one in April 2010 that found ads perform better when brands employing them also have a healthy dose of fans on the site.
"Nielsen has countless relationships with online companies... as customers of their syndicated products," Chelser said. "But I am not aware of where Nielsen has utilized an online tech company to provide access to their membership or user base as a panel."
Part of the One Show/Creative unConference, the event's attendee list consisted of agency names like Ogilvy & Mather, JWT, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and Digitas. Many attendees were creatives who wanted to learn more about what Facebook's Studio has to offer. Amanda Huntzinger, a freelance art director, was in the audience and said Facebook Ads case studies were presented for M&Ms, Toyota, American Express, Nike, 1-800 Flowers, and JetBlue.
"They were really well-crafted from a Facebook point-of-view," she said. "They included interesting learnings that were very useful to the attendees."
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the panel was designed specifcally for CPGs.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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