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Is MRC Accreditation Of Audience Ratings Still Relevant?

Media Rating Council accreditation has long been viewed as an important third party stamp of approval for a measurement service that helps enhance clients’ confidence in the currency. But is it as relevant as it once was? Earlier this month, Nielsen requested a hiatus from its TV ratings accreditation process and now the ball is in the MRC’s court.

In a deeply reported exploration of the issue, Ad Age suggests: “Nielsen appears to be betting the market will shrug off its loss of accreditation and keep doing deals on its numbers anyway, at least in the short term as it prepares to launch its Nielsen One cross-platform measurement service in late 2022.”

While advertisers prefer using an accredited service, there’s ample recent evidence that they no longer require it.

  • The TV network trade group VAB, which has been pushing to pull Nielsen’s MRC accreditation, said that ad deals would still be based on Nielsen currency while it works to fix problems with the TV service.

  • Both Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings (DAR) service and its local TV measurement service are also on accreditation hiatus.

  • On its second quarter earnings call in late July, Nielsen CEO David Kenny said that while accreditation is “very important” and “builds trust in the industry,” it's not required. “It’s not required to use the product, and it’s not in our contract. So we’re not required to maintain accreditation. We certainly have it as a goal.”

  • Nielsen’s biggest measurement rivals aren’t accredited for their TV measurement products, including Comscore, Videoamp and others.

That’s not to say that MRC accreditation no longer matters or isn’t factored into how major advertisers choose which services to base billion-dollar advertising decisions on. As Ad Age points out, Procter & Gamble Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard four years ago challenged digital media to have the same kind of MRC-accredited third-party audience measurement as TV did. And Comscore has asked the MRC to move up the start date for an MRC audit of its TV ratings products from early 2022 to no later than Oct. 15, 2021.

At radio, more than a decade has passed since the PPM rollout was completed yet 18 PPM markets still don’t have MRC accreditation, including four of the top 10: New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC and Boston. Nielsen has a total of 30 out of 48 PPM audio markets accredited for its monthly Average Quarter Hour ratings.

Arbitron counted the desire to gain MRC accreditation for all PPM markets a top priority. By 2013, three years after completing commercialization of the service, 26 out of 48 metered markets had received MRC approval, including 7 of the top 10.That same year, Nielsen acquired Arbitron. In 2018, Nielsen received the MRC’s coveted double checkmarks for the PPM radio ratings service in five additional markets but lost accreditation in one. More than three years later there has been no word on efforts to gain MRC approval for PPM in more audio markets.

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