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Ozzie and Harriet Nielsen

By: Steven Heller | August 4, 2008


I always wanted to belong to the Nielsen family. You know, kind of like the Ozzie and Harriet Nielsen family who, through their TV viewing habits, determined what Americans were “thinking,” “desiring” and “consuming.” Yet it never came to pass. I guess I was just not the ideal Nielsen subject, nor, as it turned out, was anyone in my extended family–hence, our TV watching had no greater purpose than to divert us.


These feelings of exclusion welled up this weekend while reading the New York Times’ sports supplement PLAY, which was sponsored in its entirety (like Target’s exclusive ads in The New Yorker in 2006) by the Nielsen Media Company. Each of the 20 or so ads was a quiz (i.e., Which country has more internet users than any other? What singer(s) recorded songs with the word “summer” in the title?) that captured reader’s attention even more than the editorial content (which was exclusively devoted to the China Olympics).


I found that surge of Nielsen envy emerging not just because I still long to be one of them, but because the ad campaign–and the monopolization of PLAY–was so brilliant. I presume it boosted their Nielsen rating considerably.

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