The Future of Ad Effectiveness in a Post-Nielsen World

Neilson Ratings accreditation suspension

Emerging Social Commerce Channels Requires Innovative Measurement Tools

By Jeff Bander, Head of U.S., Eye Square

For nearly seven decades, the concept of measuring advertising effectiveness has been synonymous with a single name: Nielsen. However, 2021 saw a sea change for TV and video advertising.

The Video Advertising Bureau (VAB), representing the interests of American television networks, appealed to the Media Rating Council (MRC) to suspend Nielsen’s accreditation for national TV ratings. Overnight, networks were challenged to make sense of a world without Nielsen and create new measurements that could better reflect the ways in which people now watch TV and digital video.

While Nielsen’s loss of accreditation came as a shock, the moment itself was the result of years of change and tension in the entertainment and advertising industries. For decades, Nielsen was designed to assess ad effectiveness in a landscape with very limited means of delivery. The Nielsen model was useful when measuring the size of an audience on linear TV and other early video platforms. However, the recent explosion of devices, streaming services and digital platforms have rendered the traditional model of measurement obsolete. After years of evolution and turmoil, Nielsen simply couldn’t keep up.

So how will we define ad effectiveness in 2022 and beyond? The answer begins by looking at how the purchase experience has changed.

The Rise of Social Commerce

During the height of Nielsen’s time as the essential measurement and rating service, advertising was designed to drive consumers to visit a physical retail location. Of course, this evolved with the growth of eCommerce to encourage viewers to visit a specific online store, reducing the time and effort needed to convert the customer from advertisement to purchase.

In 2021, the customer journey became even shorter, as companies embraced “social commerce” — the combination of social media and eCommerce.


In February 2021, Sprout Social surveyed U.S. marketers to better understand their adoption of social commerce platforms. The results showed a significant change in the way today’s businesses approach sales and marketing: approximately 85% of large-and medium-sized companies sell on social commerce platforms, in addition to 57% of small companies.

With social commerce, companies can drive consumers from the moment of inspiration to a completed purchase with just a single tap on a mobile device. While previous advertising campaigns were meant to drive brand awareness or launch a lengthier sales cycle, today’s marketers must play on impulses and instant reactions.

This new approach is proving to be highly effective: according to eMarketer, more than 101.1M people will become social commerce users by 2023.

New Measurements and System 0

Today’s smart TVs and mobile devices have converged to provide both entertainment and commerce on a single platform. With the customer journey shorter than ever before, marketers must take a different approach to measure advertising effectiveness.

Instead of focusing on the consumer’s thoughts and emotions, advertisers must be able to mirror the shortened customer journey and measure the viewer’s instinctive reactions. This behavior can be referred to as System 0, which moves past implicit (System 1) and explicit (System 2) approaches to analyze basic perception.

A post-Nielsen measurement solution must take into consideration the many channels that marketers use to communicate with potential customers today. Beyond just digital video, these channels include social media and eCommerce platforms; to gain a comprehensive understanding of ad performance, marketers must be able to track customer behavior across each of these channels.

Given the plethora of channels, screens and digital information, this tracking must embrace all parts of human experience — System 2 (explicit cognition), System 1 (implicit emotion) and even System 0 (pure perception), monitoring all of them in concert.

Studies show that while dwell time has become exceptionally short, advertising can still impact brand recognition and choice if marketers put lessons learned from analysis into action.

One of the most direct and effective ways to measure ad performance in this new environment is by monitoring campaigns in the live context of social and eCommerce platforms, from Instagram feeds to Amazon search results.

This approach can track the viewer’s immediate reaction to an advertisement, assessing whether they go directly from the ad to their shopping cart. Using in-context measurement tools, marketers can gain a clear, unambiguous evaluation of whether an ad is effective.

Marketing, sales, commerce and measurement are growing and evolving, as customers interact with more services, devices and screens on a seemingly daily basis. In a world without Nielsen, marketers must take a comprehensive approach to measurement, conducting a full audit of their campaigns and ensuring they have a robust suite of tools to monitor the performance of each individual channel.

As companies increase spending on new and emerging platforms, they will face new pressure to demonstrate the value of their investments.

In the coming year, we will see a range of new tools emerge to fill the Nielsen-sized gap in the advertising market and ensure these emerging channels are working as hard as they can for marketers.