Sky survey is ‘distorting’ ad recall figures

I read with interest the news item “Ads get more attention on digital” – as claimed by BSkyB (MW last week).

I found it intriguing that a study based on the claimed favourite programmes of 2,000 adults seems to have come up with the long sought-after relationship between enjoying a programme and paying attention to the break. Many other channels have tried to do just this, but now the choice-laden digital environment claims to have found the answers. I beg to differ.

There’s a world of difference between claimed favourite programmes and actual viewing. Carlton’s study of young people’s media habits, “Nearly Normal”, compared a group’s TV-viewing diaries and their claimed favourite programmes. There proved to be big differences between what respondents said they liked and what was actually viewed.

Julian Dobinson’s claims for the enthusiasm of the digital viewer are at odds with a CIA Sensor report published this year, which stated: “More choice and superior EPG navigation have not eradicated the viewer’s sense of not being able to find anything to watch, and as viewer tolerance of the wrong programming decreases, so zapping is becoming ever more the norm.”

With regard to advertising effect, we defer to John Billett, who at this year’s TV-Madrid conference declared: “A rating point on either ITV or Channel 4 generates considerably greater advertising recall than a rating point on Sky One or UK Gold.”

The news article does pay some credit to ITV, stating that we are still watched and that the viewer has to choose to come out of the digital environment to do so. But the question should be, how much is ITV watched? In Sky Digital homes in May, the top 30 commercial programmes were on ITV. Of the top 100, only ten were non-terrestrial commercial channels’ programmes. And the claimed most popular programme in Sky’s research, E4’s ER, stands at number 184 in the top commercial programmes.

If you really want to understand the relationship between viewing and commercial responsiveness, tvSPAN has all the answers. It has proven that the attention paid to ITV and the sheer size of audience to its commercial breaks causes significant increases in purchases.

Martin Bowley

Chief executive

Carlton TV, London WC2

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