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Dave the Research Grouch: iSpot.TV and MediaPost

Fall is in the air, Christmas ads have started on TV, and the Research Grouch has emerged Grinch-like from his cave. Today’s offenders are iSpotTV and MediaPost – because it always takes a company looking for publicity and a news outlet to publish it.

iSpot.TV logoThursday’s story in MediaPost, “Shorter TV Ads Command More Viewer Attention,” discussed findings from iSpot.TV’s analysis of “37,854 TV commercials across 4.7 million TV ad airings.” The first alarm bells go off. Usually, when huge numbers are tossed around, it’s often to try to legitimize sketchier numbers to follow – as if large sample sizes are some sort of guarantee of quality.

Strike Out

The article noted several differences in “Attention Score” – a score which was undefined. I don’t expect to be told how it’s calculated, but I do expect to be told how “attention” is defined, since presumably these are calculated solely from digital data and not from tracking eye-gaze. Strike one on MediaPost.

Strike two comes from the conclusion that 10 second commercials have a better Attention Score than do 30 second ads. The scores are “91.0 to 91.5” and “90.0”, respectively. But no context is given in the article as to what is a significant difference. Delving into iSpot.TV’s own report, they do actually say a difference of “a few points is significant.” Assuming “a few” has its typical meaning, this would be 3 to 4 points. Applying this to the headline finding, and the difference of 1 to 1.5 points is not really significant.

Another difference called out as “much more notable”, between the 10 second spots and 60 second spots (a score of 88 to 88.5, and thus a difference of 1.5 to 2 points), appears to also not be significant.

Strike three on the MediaPost article, or at least a foul tip, is not questioning the inclusion of 10 second ads. Does anyone actually sell those? I’ve heard of 6s, 15s, and 30s, but I’ve not read about 10s being a standard length for TV commercials. A curious choice by iSpot.TV.

Credit Where It’s Due

I will give some credit to iSpot.TV for publishing a report on which the MediaPost article was based (free to download if you give them your email info). And they get credit for including the significance information that was lacking in the article. However, nowhere in the report, or anywhere on the iSpot.TV website, is the derivation of the Attention Score addressed. To me, attention is only measured by actual eyes-on or ears-on an ad. I’m very curious how it is defined in this case.

As I’ve mentioned before in this space, I don’t expect writers to be experts on research, but there should be some level of intellectual curiosity rather than just regurgitating a press release. And I don’t expect companies to give away proprietary information, but if you’re going to publicize something, at least give enough information to answer some basic research questions about your service.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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