Research is a vital tool for media organisations, both on the advertising side and that of editorial. Knowing the reader, what they want, where they go, how they shop, why and where they spend their money, what they want to know, what interests them… all this helps media owners accurately measure the audiences they deliver, and keep their readers engage with their content.
While agencies and advertisers have long used the All Media and Products Survey (Amps) to gauge the state of the nation, there are other players on the field competing to deliver strategic insights to South Africa’s media houses and brands, many of them international operations.
But how relevant is international research to South Africa, and how does South Africa help global researchers in their quest to build and develop data applicable to brands around the world?
Ask Afrika’s Andrea Rademeyer explains. Her company works closely with the global Target Group Index (TGi) researchers. She says TGi’s research is the “only viable alternative to Amps, since it provides complete brand and media information on the South African consumer, with legacy data available since 2002”. While Ask Afrika owns both companies in South Africa, it is also contracted to conduct what Rademeyer calls “high quality fieldwork on the intricate global questionnaire”. But that questionnaire has been localised, she says, by “drawing on more than 8000 brands, which are typical and available to the SA consumer”.
This way, South Africa media and brand owners, with their agencies, use the data to direct their marketing strategies. “Global benchmarks provide megatrends, which can be used locally for some forecasting on what might happen in our marketplace, or alternatively to understand how our marketplace is different to others,” Rademeyer explains.
Ask Afrika has redesigned the sample frame, she says, so as to ensure it “passes our muster for global standards in sampling. Ask Afrika has also redesigned the questionnaire to yield trending data on new digital and branding thought leadership. The data collection of nearly 20 000 interviews is now also on global quality standards.”
Rademeyer, who was recently appointed as Africa Chair for WIN/GIA Gallup International, says TGi’s legacy data can help marketers understand shifts in consumer behavior based not just on their buying patterns, but also on movements in attitudes and lifestyles. “The TGi IconBrands benchmark is widely used to assess the success of marketing strategies on the consumer’s brand affinity and engagement,” she says, but also helps media owners drive media sales, as it is “renowned for delivering the best media sales data to media owners and media planning data for agencies”.
TGi also produces the annual Icon Brand awards based on the new annual data every year and are specifically calculated on demographic parameters, which represent all South Africans. This differentiates the measure from all other brand rankings,” she says.
Rademeyer’s appointment as the Africa Chair of WIN/GIA Gallup International – a global association of independent research companies, which collaborate on global clients – means local clients “gain from immediate access into a company network, which has representation in unlikely market research regions like Somalia and Sudan. This is very useful for company strategists looking at new markets,” she says.
South African research has its particular challenges, not least the geographic size of the country with its widespread distribution of economic nodes. This, says Rademeyer, makes “market research expensive from a sampling and interviewing perspective”.
She says low digital penetration in South Africa makes the cheaper electronic alternatives to interviewing not representative enough. “It is thus sometimes dangerous to use electronic data collection, due to the sampling dynamic”.
At the same time, the diverse market “is what makes the marketing industry vibrant and innovative- it is what makes our marketing industry so respected all over the world. Our challenge in that industry is, that it is being squeezed into extinction by zealous procurement departments- the first cuts generally hurt the strategic and intelligence component of the service delivery. This is a obvious risk,” says Rademeyer.
What, then, is her take on the instantaneous research done via cellphone polling I terms of the research landscape?
“It is great fun, yet less useful for strategic discourse. My clients might be hesitant to base significant strategy or budget decisions on snap surveys – albeit on many respondents, and quickly available,” she says. “The cellphone medium is still unsuitable for questioning, which is used for modeling decisions.”