New Television Antenna by Norman Rockwell, shared by Georges Nijs on flickr
Saturday, February 25, 12:30 pm - there's a knock on my front door. It's a young woman who tells me she is from Nielsen, looking for antenna-only households. She's holding print materials and looks legit. With regret I tell her, not only do we have no antenna, we don't have any live TV at all. She says, "That's my challenge. We pay people to watch TV... I just need one household in the area."
As she walked away I had that feeling you get when you see in the news a 110-year-old person celebrating their birthday, and they are quoted as saying the secret to long life is "eating a lot of dark chocolate" or "hard work and fresh air." Nielsen, how are you surviving this long on hard work and fresh air?
Here are the thoughts and imaginary conversations that obsessed me for hours after that two-minute interaction:
First - door-to-door recruiting? Really? Given the difficulty of your task finding "antenna-only households," how about developing a fleet of drones that can recognize rooftop antennas, to pinpoint the addresses your foot soldiers should target? It's technically feasible (in case you're not already working on this, here's a case study you may be interested in. The company in the case study uses drones to recognize antenna problems - your task is that much simpler, just "show me antennas"), although the reality is, modern antennas are indoor and hidden. Perhaps you could find cord-cutters via forums, dedicated interest websites, and social media?
Second - how relevant, really, is the opinion of an antenna-only household? Your website states "we collect more than two million paper diaries from audiences across the country each year during 'sweeps'." Two million PAPER diaries?!?!? In 2017 is there no better way? Or is it that the households willing to participate are the kinds of households who don't have computers, smartphones, or the Internet (or can't be depended upon to use them if they do have them)? How about shipping your panelists a low-cost device for input?
Third - I can't get past the door-to-door thing. The only foot salespeople I've dealt with in the past few years have been Boy Scouts selling Christmas wreaths, or similar local children selling raffle tickets to support their sports teams. Their moms drive them from driveway to driveway. Nielsen, for a six billion dollar company, I expect more sophistication. I really want you to find a way to start the pitch with convincing language like, "Our data indicates that you may have cut the cord with cable and would be interested in..." (What about offering an antenna as part of the deal?)
Finally - regret. My vague feeling of "I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member" is at war with my desire to be part of this mysterious system. I have always wondered about Nielsen families. Possibly because my mother was a decades-long participant in National Family Opinion, and I grew up with their evolving methods in my home, I feel a certain comfort and nostalgia about investing my time to answer corporate surveys. If it's interesting to be part of new product launches, imagine the feeling of being part of television history. Over the weekend I even considered buying an antenna and contacting the company for a second chance - but it seems that, per their website, there's no way to request to be a panelist.
As with so many things, luck favors the prepared.