The South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF) has been under much pressure lately regarding its research methodology. Should it be revisited? Are media planners and buyers getting the information they need to make decisions? And what about the increasing importance of digital?
Virginia Hollis, MD of The MediaShop (Sandton) and deputy chair of SAARF, wrote a piece in The Media recently in which she said: “Online and mobile are playing an increasing role in advertising in South Africa, so SAARF must address this need. More questions have been added into the 2012 study but, by the time this research is released, both the questions and answers will be old.
“The Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA) already has representation on the SAARF board, and I know that it has already released some of its own research. In the very near future, we will need to find a way to merge the two, and then we will have to see how we can take it further. This is an incredibly important developmental area for all of us.”
SAARF listened and last week, hosted its 8th Media Research Symposium in five top international players in global media audience research gave delegates “a great deal to think about, as they shed light on the way forward for audience measurement in a multi-platform world”.
SAARF CEO, Dr Paul Haupt, said at the opening, “when we look back on today in 10 or 20 years, we will most likely recognise this time for what it truly is – the ‘industrial revolution’ of our century”.
Haupt stressed that in the future, everyone in the media, marketing and advertising business will need to get to grips not only with the connectedness of media but also the inter-connectedness and interactive nature of media.“Everything you do in your specific medium will be affected by what is happening in other media. Today’s media are all interconnected: dependent on and affected by each other.”
This thought was echoed by Leendert van Meerem, MD of the Intomart GfK Group in the Netherlands. He posed the question of whether we need a currency for the internet itself, or whether we need to be thinking bigger. “When it comes to the internet, are we dealing with only one medium, or is it more complex than that?” he asked. “Yes, the internet is a medium in itself but it is also a means of transport for traditional media. For example, is YouTube measured as TV or the internet?”
That the lines between media are increasingly blurring, and that the term “traditional medium” no longer applies, was a common theme at the Symposium.
In a presentation on the future of readership measurement, Andrew Green, chief marketing officer at Ipsos MediaCT, UK, said that research shows that people are still reading newspapers, just not in the same way as before, thanks to tablets, smartphones and the net.
“There are no more traditional, single-platform media,” he said. “Every medium is becoming multi-platform.” Green pointed out that these days, it’s not about the medium per se: the ink on paper, the TV screen, the radio set. “All media are now branded content carriers using multiple platforms.”
If the nature of media has changed, then so too must the measurement of these media.
Considering internet measurement, Megan Clarken, MD–Media for Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa at Nielsen, Australia, made a compelling case for the critical need for accountability in the digital media. “Advertisers who use the online space know that the audience is there,” she says. “They just don’t know how to prove whether the advertising is effective or not.”
Clarken stressed that the digital industry must address this lack of reliable information by providing a consistent, quality currency that comes from one reputable supplier. “That is how you create growth in an industry,” she said. “The digital industry needs to stop throwing out so many numbers, it’s complicating things. And digital needs to be able to speak the same language as the traditional media, talking about reach in GRPs. Telling advertisers how many page impressions were served is simply not good enough.”
Senior VP of Data Integration at The Nielsen Company, USA, Pete Doe, considered the need for changes in TV audience research, as the increase in channel fragmentation went hand-in-hand with a rise in zero ratings. He suggested that a hybrid approach might be the answer, fusing the people-centric data collected from TAMS panels with the larger sources of tuning information collected passively from set-top boxes.
New thinking was also needed in radio. Kate Bramich, Ipsos MediaCT’s director of the UK’s radio currency, RAJAR, stated that traditional methods of radio audience research would not be sufficient to handle future challenges. Bramich told symposium delegates about RAJAR’s latest innovation: a software-driven approach to passive electronic measurement, using smartphones. Passive radio research has been a topic for well over a decade, but the massive rise of the smartphone may at last be able to turn this expensive method of radio research from a mere topic into an actuality.
Van Meerem presented research on smartphones and tablets in the Netherlands which certainly showed how ubiquitous this form of technology is becoming, with smartphone ownership up from 23% to 45% from August 2010 to December 2011, and tablet ownership from 1% to 14% over the same period. This growth is proving to have significant benefits for a number of media.
“The smartphone is the driver for digital consumption of newspapers and radio, while the tablet is the driver for digital consumption of TV and magazines, but also newspapers. Together, the smartphone and the tablet are bringing back lost readers, as well as creating new readers for print,” he said.
Overall, it would seem that the rise of digital, far from sounding the death knell of the traditional media, has provided old forms of content with new channels to their audiences. This is the direction of the future, and it is this future which media audience researchers are now charged with quantifying.