In a tersely worded statement earlier this week, cinema advertising sales house CineMark said it was to “discontinue supplying the media industry and its stakeholders with cinema ad spend data with immediate effect and until further notice”.
The announcement came in the wake of a meeting between Nielsen, CineMark and South Africa’s only other cinema sales house, Popcorn, in which the three tried to find “possible solutions” to industry concerns as to the reliability of cinema ad spend data.
Ryan Williams, executive head of sales at Cinemark, told TheMediaOnline there are two major problems impacting on the reliability of the data provided to the industry. “Number one, Popcorn don’t report their data, so effectively the industry is only getting 60% of the information they need which means Nielsen’s numbers are wrong. And number two, the models cinema is using came into play in the late 1990s, early 2000 and are, basically, rubbish,” he says.
“That’s why we convened a meeting between Nielsen, Popcorn and ourselves as the model has to be reviewed. It’s the only responsible way to handle the issue,” says Williams.
He says current models are based on such benchmarks as seasonality, including loadings in December, always a big month for audiences, and other “arbitrary factors”. Williams questions these factors, asking on who’s say so are the benchmarks reported as “fact”.
“To make it fair, Nielsen will report back to us after studying models abroad and to investigate what comprises best practice in the industry. For example, we need to establish how best to capture and reflect the foyer environment, which is experiential. We hope they’ll get back to us with two or three models within a timeframe of around six months,” he says.
Williams says cinema ad spend globally is estimated to be in the region of 1% to 1.5%, and growing. “This past weekend, Twilight Breaking Dawn part 2 broke all attendance records in South Africa. It was the biggest opening in South Africa’s cinema history, beating The Avengers in April. That’s a sign that the space is healthy and we have a responsibility to report that kind of growth accurately.”
Williams says the biggest advantage of understanding and having the correct data at hand is that Popcorn will then start reporting its data. “That means both players will be reporting, and that means stakeholders will have a proper base from which to work,” he says.
Williams believes the move to stop reporting “until further notice” won’t affect media planning too badly. “Bad data gave them a big stick to beat us with. Now that’s mean removed. Bottom line is that attendance is up by at least 7% to 8%.”
At the same time, he’s kept rates stable, believing that to up them now, in this environment, would be foolish. “We’ll come out the other end with robust realistic data, and with both players reporting. That’s a win,” Williams says.
Of course, revising data in light of new information could be tricky, which is why they’ve taken the decision to revise backwards for about 18 months worth of numbers. “Best to make a clean break, and steer a new course,” says Williams.
To that end, all back data will be set at zero on the AdDynamix database with the release of September 2012 data. Nielsen will keep the industry informed as to progress made and new release dates.
The move has been greeted with scepticism by some industry experts, including Gordon Muller who in a blog said “Cinema threatening to pull out of AdEx is like Sundowns threatening to pull out the Premier Soccer League. When you’re bottom of the log with one point on the board, nobody, other than a handful of diehard fans, is going to miss you”.
Williams responds. “Look I ran media agencies for 10 years. This is the right move to make. It’s the responsible way to go. When I discussed it with industry players they agreed. Now that I’ve done it, they’re saying it’s a bad idea. I believe it’s the right thing to do.”
Meanwhile, back at DStv Media Sales
The South African Advertising Research Foundation (Saarf) announced that as of 10 December, the Television and Audience Measurement Survey (TAMS) will use the DStv audited figures for weighting the DStv penetration, PVR penetration within DStv and the bouquet percentages within the DStv universe on the TAMS panel. Audited DStv updated numbers will be included in all future universe updates.
Saarf said when it first started measuring DStv viewership 11 years ago, it was growing “at a rapid rate”. Multichoice supplied Saarf with audited DStv subscriber numbers to be used in the weighting.
“Subsequently a variety of new bouquets have been launched by DStv and the subsequent growth continued. As part of the TAMS audit task team’s investigations a decision has been reached to use DStv audited figures once again alongside the AMPS data, in order to get the most accurate reflection of the current reality,” it said in a statement
DStv Media Sales responded, saying it had raised concerns with Saarf and the TAMS council regarding the AMPS data and the over-reading of the number of DStv households “some time back” and prior to the deployment of AMPS 11b data into TAMS.
“In the most recent AMPS release (AMPS 11b), this over-read has become significant and therefore DStv media sales fully support the alignment of TAMS numbers to the DStv audited subscriber figures,” CEO Chris Hitchings said in a statement. “We welcome Saarf’s response to these concerns and believe that using the DStv source data will provide a more accurate reflection of DStv audiences both in terms of size and representation.
Saarf says AGBNielsen have run some test data where they used the Current AMPS 2011B six-month data (data that is currently being used for all industry releases) and they superimposed the proportions of *tentative DStv audited figures on the data.
“From these preliminary results it looks like there are on average a gain in TVRs of of 3-4% on the free-to-air stations and a loss of about 12-16% on DStv Commercial channels,” it said.
“The Board Task Team have reviewed these results and believe they are a more accurate reflection of television viewing and SAARF are working full steam ahead on trying to get the results released to the industry by 10 December 2012.”