The Marketing Research Foundation’s (MRF) new research initiative “has received resounding support from the majority of the country’s main advertisers”. That’s according to Greg Garden, CEO of the Marketing Association of South Africa (MASA), and MRF director. Michael Bratt spoke to him to find out more.
Garden adamantly refused to reveal actual numbers in terms of money collected to fund the initiative, or how many companies have pledged support. He confirmed that currently subscribers are “significantly north of R14 billion in terms of annualised adspend numbers”. He also declined to comment on the ratio of actual money collected versus pledges of money saying, “This is not an industry thing any longer. It’s a thing between subscribers and the MRF… The mechanics of all of this now is a private contractual agreement between a subscriber and a provider and it’s not public domain information”.
In a press release issued this week, Garden said “funding for the new research initiative has significantly exceeded minimum viability levels”.
Details around the research
Filling the void that was created after the demise of AMPS, the new research will be called MAPS, and will be available on a subscription basis. The first report will be published by mid-2018. “The goal of MAPS is to create consumer centric research to provide insights and understanding of daily consumer behaviour, decision making and product and brand consumption. The research results will be primarily used to deepen consumer understanding, for target marketing, and as the basis for the planning of media space and time,” the MRF said in the release.
Garden says the MRF wishes to build on the foundation and legacy of AMPS while embracing new thinking and new methods.
Final cost of research still to be confirmed
When this research initiative was introduced to the industry at an event earlier this year, an estimated cost of doing the research was given. Garden confirms that this still needs to be finalised per subscriber as it depends on the annual adspend of an advertiser. The total cost also needs to be finalised as the process is currently in a request for proposals (RFP) stage with “several research companies currently working on the MRF’s RFP”. Garden declined to tell us how many research houses will be in the running. “We agreed that having narrowed the initial field down to the people who have got the brief and request for proposal that we will not comment on who they are and how many there are until the process is complete,” he says.
The selection of the research house is being done by a committee made up of individuals from three constituencies. Firstly, the MRF itself has put forward people, secondly “independent subject matter experts” have been brought in, which Garden describes as “neutral and independent people with a high degree of experience, knowledge and credibility in the market research industry but are specialists in particular areas of market research”, and thirdly, individuals from the MRF’s subscriber base members (people with a high degree of expertise in market research) have been selected.
Garden says that no deadline has been set for the appointment of a research house as “we are working through a process that will allow us to be able to take various other factors into account if we need to”, but confirms that the MRF will receive proposals from those asked to tender before the end of August.
No link with the Establishment Survey
When asked why this new research was not being linked with the Establishment Survey (ES), Garden said the focus of the research was everything that the ES was not doing. “It’s not an overlap, it’s not a duplication, it is not in competition with it at all,” he says. The research could have “piggybacked” off of the ES, he adds, but says “The Broadcast Research Council (BRC) insisted that they should have total control over the research process and as was made very clear upfront the difference between the two is that the BRC is a commercial entity serving the broadcasting and media owners with commercially based research, which is entirely within their right and they’re entitled to do it, but marketers want neutral, independent, transparent research which they have control over and can influence and the BRC insisted that piggybacking it would have to be according to their rules and the way in which they were governing it, and the two bodies were never able to reach an agreement on it”.
But Clare O’Neil, CEO of the BRC, disagrees.
“We all know and remember and it is well documented that the AMF and MASA were part of the ES tender process with the BRC & PRC. There was positive engagement between all parties throughout the tender, and post the tender, where we all got together on numerous occasions, at numerous workshops to give input to the design of the questionnaire. TMO even reported on such! “ she says.
“The idea was that the BRC/PRC would fund the main body ES and the MASA constituency would fund the products and brands module. What we all also remember is that for some bizarre reason, MASA pulled out of the signatory of the ES contract on the day of signatory. MASA were part of the contractual process, so I am a bit baffled at the ‘rules’ to which the MRF refer,” says O’Neil.
She believes MASA was thrown by the fact that the BRC and PRC were funding the programme and felt that they had no real say as non-funders. “However, some progressive marketers still participated in the ES questionnaire design and process,” she adds.
“We all remember that the ES went into field in July 2016, the first six month data set launched in March 2017 and we will see the first year results at end September 2017. The BRC has continued to keep its door open to the MRF, with regular engagements and conversations with its representative working with the BRC, Celia Collins. Celia indicated back in May that the MRF would have formalised its intended engagement with the BRC by mid-June, this did not happen,” O’Neil explains.
“I met with Celia two weeks ago, [and] she mentioned that the MRF would only be in a position to engage formally with the BRC at end August – we still await, our door is still open.”
O’Neil says in the meantime, the BRC will be investing further funds into the ES, and will be placing the needed products and brand module onto the ES. It will go in field in January 2018 as the ES goes into field in six month cycles.
“Again, some very progressive marketers and agencies are joining in to give inputs into the questionnaire design – so we are excited and look forward,” she says.
O’Neil reiterated that the BRC is not a commercial entity but a NPC delivering audience measurement systems to service the needs of radio and television broadcasters as well as advertisers and marketers. “Perhaps the MRF need to remind themselves that the old SAARF used to deliver RAMS & TAMS. We also all know that the SAARF driven RAMS and TAMS systems had no KPIs attached to them, no annual audits and no transparency. The BRC prides itself of the transparency of BRC RAM & BRC TAMS, through the rigour of stringent KPIs, which hold the two respective Research Companies, TNS andNielsen to account (as they produce the actual research). There is not one media agency out there who do not use BRC TAMS on a daily or weekly basis on behalf of the respective marketers,” she says.
MRF chairman, Virginia Hollis, announced that given the positive response to the new research, the MRF has decided to commission an update to the AMPS 2015 database using the 2016 population figures. The AMPS 2016 Update will be available from the beginning of September. In celebration of the launch, the MRF will make the AMPS Update available free of charge to marketers and agencies. However, Hollis said that MAPS will only be available to subscribers.
Goodbye SAARF, hello MRF
Along with this new research comes a new brand, the Marketing Research Foundation. At the most recent South African Audience Research Foundation (SAARF) AGM, members voted to change the organisation’s name, relaunch it as the MRF and adopt a new memorandum of incorporation. Garden confirms, “The MRF is now live and well under a new guise, with a new purpose and new members”.
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8