Media Measurement Coalition Seeks New Members

The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), unveiled earlier this month, is soliciting advertisers to join its cause and fatten its coffers. It’s also on the hunt for a permanent executive director to relieve unofficial spokesman Alan Wurtzel, president of research at NBC Universal.

“Our organization is not successful if it doesn’t have a broad membership,” Wurtzel told colleagues this week at an event hosted by the Advertising Research Foundation.

To that end he’s hoping to recruit a large number of advertisers — though not necessarily the largest advertisers. CIMM already has some of those. Its 15 founding members include broadcast networks (Fox, CBS, Time Warner, Disney/ABC), agencies (Starcom MediaVest Group, Carat) and brands (Unilever, P&G). Many of these are dissatisfied with the current audience measurement providers — most pointedly dominant TV researcher Nielsen. Their dues — $25,000 a year for non-voting members, $100,000 for voting members — will fund a range of new research methods in the coming months that will inevitably compete with Nielsen.

By year’s end CIMM hopes to have convinced a great many brands to commit to join for two years at either level, as its founding members have done, Wurtzel said.

The effort is TV centric, as evidenced by its first two RFPs — planned for public release in a week. One of these will uncover new methods for gathering audience data via set-top boxes; the second will seek methods of measuring audiences across platforms, including broadcast, Internet, and mobile.

Once it identifies the most promising methods, CIMM will provide seed money to fund their development but will not own the methods itself. If all goes well, CIMM’s members may eventually become buyers of the technologies their membership dues helped incubate.

In the meantime, research produced through CIMM’s early investments will be made public. “The whole idea is there’s no secret tent. We have to be open,” Wurtzel said.

As a sign of that openness, he’s invited Nielsen to become involved with CIMM, although it’s not clear how the two might work together.

Nielsen’s official position is that it’s waiting to learn more about the consortium. But speaking with ClickZ yesterday, Nielsen Online CEO John Burbank chided CIMM for the narrowness of its focus, noting the coalition lacks online pure play media companies.

Wurtzel acknowledged the point: “There are important Internet and mobile issues, but we had to walk before we could run.”

CIMM was conceived more than a year ago by a group of research professionals dissatisfied with existing audience measurement offerings. Formalizing their affiliation required having the CEOs of many broadcast giants agree to seek alternatives. Wurtzel said his boss, NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker, called his counterparts at FOX, CBS, ABC/Disney, and other networks to propose a new organization.

Wurtzel insisted CIMM is neither anti-Nielsen nor a competitor — and expressed frustration that early press coverage had painted it that way.

He also said CIMM is not a trade association, thought it certainly ha characteristics of one. For instance, it’s now looking to hire a permanent executive director to carry out its mandate. Wurtzel invited colleagues at the ARF event to apply for the position. “We’ve all got day jobs,” he said of himself and the other founders.

CIMM also has a broadening mandate, which could permanently establish it alongside other media research associations. Toward the end of his talk, Wurtzel said he’d like to see CIMM tackle broader obstacles to standardized measurement. He said, one possible project would be a universal tag that could be used by Omniture, Comscore, Nielsen, and others.

“I think it can do many things,” he said in response to a question. “I don’t think there’ll be an endgame.”

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