Business report

PPM Wearables: ready for people

Across the advertising industry, the desire for the most accurate audience measurement data and tools has been strongly expressed. This has included verbal disillusionment in Nielsen. The same can be said of the advocacy group focused on TV advertising GVAand entities such as the massif NBC Universal, who avoided the Nielsen motto for his 2022 Upfronts.

With Nielsen accepting a buyout offer from a consortium of investors led by a former dissident, Elliott Management Corp., while it is still in a go-shop period, proving to the media and marketing worlds that its audience generation products are superior to all remains paramount.

On Thursday, Nielsen said its new portable people counters, or PPMs, were reliable. And, they will head to panelists by the end of 2022.

As first reported by Streamline Publishing Radio Ink, Nielsen shared during a customer presentation on the last day of Q1 2022 that, following a “glove” of multi-year testing, its new bracelet, clip and pendant are working. Thus, 50% to 75% of its PPM panel should be equipped with the most fashionable wearables by the end of 2022.

It’s a long time coming, and they’ll effectively replace the PPM as we’ve known it for over 15 years: a circa-1995 pager-like device with a docking station that requires an internet connection.

As Nielsen shared in Thursday’s customer presentation, the portable PPMs “increased meter wear time and had comparable levels of adjustment” with the current device.

They also shared that wearables are not only easier to wear, but are more appealing to people especially with low compliance.

The tests involved new households, as well as panelists dating back to 2018, when iterative and continuous testing at Nielsen began. Some 400 new households with a target of 1,000 panelists were recruited, as well as 800 existing households with a target of 2,000 panelists. A significant percentage of both groups agreed to participate.

As Nielsen notes, data from the subset panel showed them that panelists were spending more time with wearable devices.

In addition to handheld devices, panelists will be provided with a beacon and docking hub – necessary devices that will transmit data to Nielsen. Panelists are also encouraged to download a companion app which increases the amount of data returned. In the younger demographic, where there is increased competition for app space on phones, Nielsen is working on ways to increase downloads to this demographic.

Nielsen Audio Senior Data Scientist Erin Wittkowski served as team leader for this project and led the majority of the presentation to the client. Wittkowski said tests showed wearables had higher transport and disconnect times in demos and wearable panelists had higher audio trends in tabs, consistent across all demographics.

Erin Wittkowski, Senior Data Scientist at Nielsen Audio

The biggest benefit of data? The subset of panelists used in testing confirmed that there was minimal difference in tuning with the introduction of wearables. As such, Wittkowski said, the technology “worked as intended.”

Managing Director of Nielsen Audio Brad Kelly was also present, and he shared that PPM wearables are a major step forward for Nielsen and the evolution of audio measurement.

Still, getting young consumers to participate may remain Nielsen’s biggest challenge. Curiously, Nielsen’s 35-page deck featured a flowery quote about the benefits of the new meters from a 68-year-old woman, rather than someone in the key 18-49 demographic.

Other key takeaways from the introduction of PPM wearables are longer undocking and docking periods.

Then there’s the story of the multicultural panelist, which gets better.

As noted above, Blacks and Hispanics showed significant increases in PPM usage as clothing became available. In particular, Hispanics who prefer to use Spanish experienced the highest jump – a good sign that broadcasting companies with Spanish-language radio stations may be less critical of how Nielsen generates rating data for those AM and FM.

Reporting by Ed Ryan, with additional reporting by Adam R Jacobson


Rollout of PPM wearables will begin this month. It will start in the 47 PPM markets, Houston will follow a few weeks later.