Something will happen in Japan this year that has not happened since the dawn of TV here. In April, the five commercial TV broadcasters will finally change their ratings metrics. They'll shift the metrics for buying advertising from households to individuals.
That’s not all. They’ll also introduce time-shift (called C7), which is a metric around any program that has been pre-recorded and watched again up to seven days after broadcast. With this change, it appears the powers that be have finally decided to acknowledge the TV viewing habits of today’s modern Japanese families.
What’s the big deal?
At first blush, it doesn't seem like much of an overhaul, as media planners have been building their media plans according to individual viewers for 20 years. However, it seems it will affect how programs are ranked.
For example, live events have traditionally ranked high (such as Kohaku Uta Gassen, the traditional New Year’s Sing-off with all of Japan’s popular singers facing off in one big multi-hour event). However, when you take into consideration time shifting, you find that dramas rank highest. When you cut the data by age, you find certain programs drastically changing places. For example, Shoten, a Sunday comedy/variety show, is a top performing program when based on households, but when the data is cut by age for 59 and below, it does not even make the top 10.
Why are TV broadcasters finally adopting ratings based on individuals? Because they were losing on two fronts:
- Household-based buying metrics were skewing TV programming to appeal to the largest slice of the population, the elderly, accelerating the flight of younger people from watching TV.
- In an ad-buying system heavily dictated by relationships, some of the older advertisers were paying disproportionately low prices for their GRPs. But with the advent of this new metric, it gives TV broadcasters the perfect opportunity to reset prices.
What could happen?
This shift could result in more money in broadcaster's coffers, so if they're smart enough, they'll re-invest to create better TV programming, and those programs that do well for a certain audience demographic will finally get the recognition they deserve, raising hopes for a new era of more targeted, higher-quality TV content.
As for advertising agencies, there will likely be initial chaos as media planners try to harmonise buying in the Tokyo metro area versus buying everywhere else (the rollout will take place in phases). However, this shift should also help planners by making it possible to use metrics like CPM across both TV and digital plans.
This should also help evolve advertisers’ conversations with their retailers from the simple "You’ve got 2,000-3,000 GRPs? Yeah sure, I’ll put you on shelf" to something more detailed about audience demographics and how you can cross-reference the insights gleaned out of POS data (which isn't based on household buying patterns). Who knows, it might even elevate the conversations around marketing to a higher, more nuanced, level.
In a land resistant to change, it will be interesting to see what unforeseen side effects result from this simple but fundamental shift.
|Sosuke Koyama is executive planning director at Beacon Communications, part of Publicis One in Tokyo.|