More than two years since Nielsen revealed prototypes of new wearable PPM devices at the NAB Show, the sleek, lightweight devices are ready to be pressed into action. Following a battery of rigorous tests – in the lab, in focus groups and in the field – Nielsen says it will phase in 3,000 new PPM wearables as a subset of its nearly 66,000 active PPM panelists over a period of weeks starting in September. “This is the next phase of the evolution of PPM,” Nielsen Audio Managing Director Brad Kelly told Inside Radio in an exclusive interview. “We’re bringing it in in line with technology trends and fashion trends.”
Miniaturizing the meter’s chipset and removing its modem have allowed Nielsen to dramatically reduce the size of the PPM, transforming what was knocked by many in the industry as outdated pager-like unit into something that is about one fourth the size of the current meter. The new PPMs come in a variety of ways to wear including wristbands, clips and pendants, which are more appealing among demographics that typically have lower compliance levels. With the next gen meters “performing every bit as well as the legacy PPM from a technology perspective,” Kelly said the devices are ready to be put into the live sample.
The results of two-phase field tests have Nielsen feeling confident about the new meters. Dual carry tests, in which a group of panelists who have timed out of the currency ratings panel were asked to carry, simultaneously, both the legacy device and a new wearable produced “virtually identical data feeds,” Kelly said. In addition, the dual carry tests showed slightly improved carry times for the wearable.
In the second phase of tests, Nielsen re-contacted former panelists and invited them to carry a new wearable to monitor their habits and compare them to their previous carry times and patterns. Kelly said the company was “very pleased with the results.” Nielsen also asked test participants if they would be willing to download a comparison app to their smartphone and 67% of them agreed. The companion app will transmit media consumption data back to Nielsen’s servers, augmenting a data collection hub to be installed in panelist homes. The app opens up new ways of two-way communication with Nielsen. Among other potential uses, the app creates a new way for Nielsen to interact with panelists, such as reminding them to keep the meter charged and with them, or to let them know about sweepstakes. “The companion app has had the intended effect of improved compliance,” Kelly said.
Of the 3,000 wearables to be deployed starting next month, 2,000 will be to existing panelists that will have their legacy meter replaced with the new one. The remaining 1,000 will be newly recruited households. Once all 3,000 are installed, which will take 6-8 weeks, Nielsen will monitor their behavior until February 2022 “to ensure that the new system lines up demographically and ethnically with target goals. Nielsen says it will share the results of those tests with the industry in second quarter 2022. If it all checks out, the company will move to a wider roll-out in the second half of 2022.
That will involve introducing wearables into new homes and replacing existing panelists who lose or damage their meter with a new wearable. The expectation is that wearables will replace the existing meters. With the average turnover of a panelist in the 10-11 month range – some carry it up to Nielsen’s two-year limit – it be late 2023 or early 2024 when the entire panel is up and running with the new meters.
“It’s a transition from one device to the other rather than a massive overhaul when you do a complete shutdown of one technology and light up the other,” Kelly explained. “This is a smarter way of doing it and will get the industry comfortable with this over time as larger and larger percentages of the panel migrate to wearables.”
Nielsen says the deployment of PPM wearable devices and technologies is part of its continued efforts to modernize its panels and improve the panelist experience, drive broader adoption among existing and new panelists and increase engagement among more challenging demographics. “By modernizing our panels, we are not only improving the overall panelist experience and increasing engagement, but also ensuring our measurement is durable and can adapt to evolving technology changes,” Mainak Mazumdar, Nielsen’s Chief Research and Data Officer, said in a press release. “This is another example of how Nielsen is continuing to innovate in our march towards Nielsen One in order to create a better media future for the entire industry.”