The Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRC) has vehemently denied claims made by the South African Audience Research Foundation (SAARF) in a story published on The Media Online this week.
The story – headlined SAARF clarifies key details around its proposed new marketing research currency, centred on SAARF’s response to questions raised about its idea to launch a new AMPS-like research currency.
In it, the SAARF board claimed it had never been invited to be an “interested party” in the upcoming Establishment Survey (ES); that although some members had asked what it would cost to include a products and brands component to the ES, the BRC had “made it clear that they could not and would not fund a Brands and Product survey” despite its members making it clear that “they and/or SAARF did not have the funds to fund the study until or unless alternative funding options were found”.
The board added that the, “BRC CEO subsequently made it very clear to SAARF that the terms for any Brands and Products section had already been written into the contract with the service provider, and that it was non-negotiable that as a potential piggyback to the ES, brands and products questions could be in the form of a leave-behind survey only. Such a survey however clearly requires face-to-face interviews”, it said.
But Clare O’Neil, CEO of the BRC, said the SAARF response was grossly inaccurate as to what had really happened. She said that she and Peter McKenzie, then-chairman of the BRC, had at the beginning of 2015 met with Justin Aspey, then-chairman of the Marketing Association of South Africa (MASA), and with Virginia Hollis, the chairman of SAARF. The BRC and PDMSA (now Publisher Research Council, or PRC) was about to begin the tender process to find a service provider to conduct the industry-wide Establishment Survey.
O’Neil said she and McKenzie told Aspey and Hollis they wanted MASA and the AMF on board and that Aspey had confirmed MASA was in. “But he made it clear they wanted Products and Brands included in the survey. And we said we could afford all the other components of media research (i.e. the currencies), but that the BRC / PDMSA could not afford to cover all the costs,” she said.
O’Neil said the BRC currently pays up to R70 million a year for the BRC TAMS research, R26 million per annum for the BRC RAM research and shares the costs of the R15 million towards the Establishment Survey with the PRC (the BRC being the majority funder of the ES). “But we all agreed that Products and Brands needed to be there, in the ES. It was really a matter of funding, and obviously the BRC could not be expected to carry all media research costs.”
O’Neil said it was standard practice around the world to use a “leave-behind”, seven-day diary to capture Products and Brands data. “Think about it: someone might not have had tomato sauce yesterday but they might have it in two days time. AMPs products and brands used a leave-behind diary. That is standard practice methodology for Products & Brands diaries. I was a bit floored that SAARF are now reporting that they are opposed to a leave-behind diary for Products and Brands, which is exactly the methodology used by the dearly departed AMPS survey,” she said.
O’Neil said she explained to Aspey at the time that the Products and Brands component was a module that could piggyback on the ES. “Justin agreed that the Products and Brands component could then be funded by MASA. Through our discussions at the time, we pegged those costs at around the R10 million mark,” she said.
She said the ES tender committee (made up of MASA/AMF; BRC and PRC representatives) briefed Yardstick, who ran the tender, to add the Products and Brands component to the RFP tender document. Bidders were asked how they would handle the Products and Brands component, and were asked how much it would cost. “Interestingly, they all came back with they would use the seven-day, leave-behind diary methodology, and they all came in with similar costings, around R14 million,” said O’Neil.
She said the industry bodies – AMF and MASA – were all invited to be interested parties, which was captured in the contract. MASA and the AMF joined the tender process under the auspices of SAARF. “Members of these bodies were included in the tender process. For example, Hollis was on the adjudication committee and the late Gordon Patterson represented AMF and MASA. The process started in February 2015 and ended in August.”
TNS won the tender, and the contract was drawn up whereby all the four bodies (MASA / AMF / BRC / PRC), who participated in the ES tender process would became signatories to the ES / TNS Agreement. “But on the day of the signing, everybody arrived, except MASA. Again, we were all floored!” said O’Neil.
“However, we all felt it important that MASA representatives joined in on all the ES workshops (questionnaire design, sampling design and the outcomes of the new segmentation model design), albeit they weren’t a signatory to the agreement. We were delighted when they sent representatives from Unilever, SAB and Tiger Brands, in fact, their contribution to those workshops was invaluable,” O’Neil said.
“That is the story. And our door is still open. We are still waiting for MASA to sign the document. The industry-wide ES is being launched at the end of March and the only thing missing is the Products and Brands seven-day diary.
“I went to the forum the other day to deliver the same message and that was to say that ‘our door is still open’ to all marketers, MASA and the new MRF. We (the BRC, PRC and AMF), with TNS, had found economies of scale and that the Product and Brand survey, piggybacked onto the ES, would now cost R11 million. My own question is, what would the marketers prefer, to raise R55 million for Products and Brands, or to join the ES for R11 million?”
The BRC, she said, was up and running and producing brilliant data for the industry, while other bodies are still talking about what data to produce.