We’ve all heard the debates about the future of SAARF and our media audience research. Sometimes they’re about what that future will look like. Sometimes they’re about whether there is even a future. Clare O’Neil explains.
I’m no fortune-teller, but I am certain of one thing; SAARF and our media audience currencies very definitely have a future, which we as an industry must work together to define.
What we need to do, is future-proof SAARF. By this I mean we must take control as best we can of our changing industry landscape, and make plans now that will ensure that our vital research currencies continue to thrive into the future.
We are faced with a rapidly changing media landscape. Content is breaking out of the traditional media boxes and spreading across platforms, mutating and proliferating at speed. Does this mean we need to change how our media audience currencies are carried out? If we have to change everything, how will we fund it?
The only way we can address these changes and answer these questions, is by sitting down together and doing something about it, deciding with reason where we actually stand and how we’re going to get to where we want to be.
So how will we future-proof SAARF?
- By taking control.
The SAARF Board is taking a very firm hold of the reins, as we’re mandated to do in the SAARF Articles.
Each constituency cannot run amok, holding hushed conversations in corridors and pointing fingers at others. SAARF is an industry body, and that’s how we must talk – together, as an industry, through one central point.
And that central point is the SAARF Board.
Every director on the SAARF Board has made a recommitment to the industry. We’re taking full responsibility for the direction of SAARF, and will ensure that the constituencies are all properly represented, participate fully, and are all kept informed about what’s happening within the Foundation.
In short, we’re getting serious. Being on the SAARF Board isn’t something you do to puff out your CV. We have a fiduciary responsibility to protect SAARF, while giving it form, structure and direction. SAARF’s staff can’t be expected to take the Foundation into the future single-handedly. With the Board controlling the narrative and giving feedback to the constituencies – it is up to the Board, along with those at SAARF – to steer us into the future.
- By taking stock, and planning ahead.
What do we have, right now? We have long-standing existing research for print, radio and TV that is extremely sound, robust and credible.
What do we need, in the future? This is something we must decide as an industry. The SAARF Board has convened a new committee tasked with facilitating this decision. Comprising all Board members and their alternates to ensure that all constituencies are represented, the Board Future-proofing Committee has already made huge progress.
It has appointed a task force of independent minds to do a needs’ analysis: Peter McKenzie and Sarel du Plessis who have extensive experience in the media world; Professor Clive Corder who has huge technical research expertise; and Jos Kuper who is a research visionary.
The task force will present its project proposals shortly to the committee, which will then review the project scope at the beginning of July. An industry-wide consultation process will then begin, with the task force consulting widely across the industry to suss out the landscape to provide us with a global outlook and a future view.
Once we have this view, the Board will collaborate with local constituencies and individuals, other industries, and local and international research bodies as we work out an implementation plan, a part of which will include how the research should be funded, and through what channels.
This is an inclusive process: we encourage all media, advertising and marketing stakeholders to participate through the Board Future-proofing committee.
As a Board, we are committed to keeping the industry abreast of our progress. Each board representative will go back to his or her constituency, taking back the right story – and importantly, the same story – so that the whole industry is finally on the same page.
I want to emphasise that this is a team effort. SAARF is a constituency-based organisation; when we criticise SAARF, we criticise ourselves. This is our industry resource. It is up to us to work as a collective, with the direction and backing of a strong Board and a strong executive, to rewrite and ensure our own future.
Some words from stakeholders
“We feel re-energised by the enthusiasm and commitment we’re seeing from the newly constituted Board. With the support of the chairperson and members of the Board who have the responsibility of guiding the organisation in the direction that the industry requires, I am confident that this valuable organisation will reinvent itself to meet the challenges of a fast-changing landscape.” – Dr Paul Haupt, CEO, SAARF.
“The new Board draws on an amazing pool of experience and enthusiasm, people who can look to the future and predict where we’re heading, people who want to contribute and resolve the issues facing us all as an industry.” – Janet Proudfoot, GM group research and audience strategy at e.tv, and SAARF Board member.
“We now have a fantastic opportunity to embark together on an exciting future for SAARF. The entire industry is changing how it works…now is our chance to tackle the future with new, fresh eyes.” – Sarel du Plessis, former CEO of MA(SA) and previous SAARF Board chairperson.
Clare O’Neil is chairperson of the South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF).