Nielsen to launch ratings tool for web ads

New measurement system will use demographic data from Facebook

Audience data for online campaigns will be comparable to that for TV

Audience measurement company Nielsen is to launch a system next week that will provide detailed audience data for online campaigns, similar to that which is available for TV.

Nielsen TV ratings are created using volunteers who allow their TV viewing to be monitored, providing detailed information about the demographics watching particular shows at particular times. The Online Campaign Ratings system will use information from Facebook to make similar measurements for online campaigns, allowing advertisers to make direct comparisons between their online and TV spend. The hope is that this will increase confidence in investing in online campaigns.

When an ad is served anywhere on the web, the system requests the user's demographic information from Facebook. We're told that privacy is protected because Facebook only sends anonymised data, and Nielsen doesn't send any information about the adverts to Facebook.

Hugh Gage of online performance company Engage Digital gave us his thoughts on the new system: "I welcome all developments towards better online measurement as long as they are robust, but I do wonder just how desperately the web as a medium actually needs this. Online media spend in the UK surpassed TV spend in 2009, which suggests an already pretty high degree of confidence in online as an advertising medium. So I would argue that it's already on an equal footing with TV."

Dave Chaffey of marketing advice site told us there's still work to do in convincing businesses of the value of online display advertising. "The new tool won't persuade many smaller businesses who haven't completed media attribution research of the merits of display advertising,” he said. “They know that typically less than one in a thousand will click on a banner and often quality of clickers won't be great. Contrast this with the much higher clickthrough rates from advertising or SEO to reach search engine users, where the intent to buy is much higher, and there is less of a "banner-blindness" effect. That said, if you research media attribution that looks beyond the "last-click wins" view of advertising it's evident that display advertising does have a place in generating awareness and preference for brands, even if viewers don't click."