Nielsen Loses MRC Accreditation: Does This Impact Higher Ed Marketing?

By: Lora Polich Sep 28, 2021

Nielsen Loses MRC Accreditation: Does This Impact Higher Ed Marketing?

If you have been keeping an eye on higher ed marketing, Nielsen’s recent loss of accreditation might feel a bit unsettling. For decades, Nielsen has been synonymous with TV ratings and is undoubtedly the brand name the average American consumer is most familiar with, even if they don’t know precisely what the company does.

Fortunately for higher education marketing, other rating systems already exist. Rating systems that may offer even more reliable, market-targeted data. Here are the facts on what led up to this and what it might mean for the future of marketing both in higher ed and in general.

What happened to Nielsen’s Accreditation?

As with many changes over the last year and a half, this loss of accreditation could have connections to the pandemic as changes in policies and regulations led Nielsen to reduce the size of in-home viewer panels. This might not have been a problem if they hadn’t already used relatively small samples to calculate viewership. Metering and other issues may have adversely affected the reliability of their reporting.

These criticisms came at a time when many were already calling Nielsen’s methods outdated. Nielsen relies heavily on statistical sampling, which, as this video points out, is the same technology used to predict the outcome of elections. And if you recall the reporting and forecasting around the last few elections, you can see why some might worry about the potential weaknesses in this strategy.

The potential undercount of TV audiences frustrated broadcasters because of its direct impact on how much they can charge for advertising on their platforms. Meanwhile, marketers wondered if their ads were even being viewed, and they appealed to the Media Rating Council to take action.

Nielsen, surprisingly, seemed to agree with the move. They subsequently asked the MRC to grant them a hiatus while they reassessed their rating model. But on September 1, 2021, the MRC announced a suspension of Neilsen’s National Television service accreditation, its Local People Meter, and Set Meter Market services.

What does this mean for Higher Education Marketing

The news has caused an uproar among media companies and the press. Press outlets published a series of articles tracking every development. Meanwhile, media platforms put out requests for proposals on better TV and video measurement solutions. Amid the influx of information and resulting concerns, marketing leaders are quietly getting on with business. Fortunately, higher education-centric agencies like EducationDynamics have stayed ahead of this curve for years by relying on data from more sophisticated and reliable systems.

Our partner, ComScore, offers a different and more extensive data set than Nielsen can provide. While Nielsen relies primarily on panel homes to gather data or non-passive data collection as they still have to pay these families, Comscore relies on passive data collection through cable boxes and other reliable sources. Unable to pay Nielsen families during Covid, Nielsen’s methods became unusable, presenting those relying solely on these figures with a huge disadvantage. Comscore and the people depending on their data were largely able to continue to adapt as necessary.  

Whether or not Nielsen ever recovers its accreditation, prepared higher ed marketers still have access to the tools they need to make intelligent decisions about ad placement.

At EDDY, we rely on the big-data insights of Comscore and the expertise of our higher ed marketing team to inform our TV ad planning. For help designing your television ad strategy and more, contact us today.