The South African Audience Research Foundation has hired a ‘Mr Fixit’ to help “overhaul” the organisation. Ettiene van den Berg takes over as acting CEO as of this month, while current CEO, Paul Haupt, who is due to retire in March 2014, will act as executive advisor.
The upheaval in Saarf follows the move earlier this year by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) to pull out of the industry body, announcing it would look for its own way of measuring television and radio audiences.
Acting chair of Saarf, Virginia Hollis, told The Media Online that while they want the NAB back in the fold, “right now there is far too much work to do to focus on this. What is important is that the industry works together, and they are,” she says.
Van den Berg, who was managing director of BrandFusion, says he brings a fresh eye to the situation at Saarf. “I am not a researcher, but rather a research user,” he said in a statement. “Having spent years in a number of industry environments, including broadcasting, marketing and advertising, I’ve used the Saarf products intensively, and so can bring a user-centric perspective to the current industry debate.”
Hollis says he is known in agency circles as a ‘Mr Fixit’. “The Saarf Board has every confidence that he is the ideal change facilitator for this complex task.” She says his mandate is yet to be finalised but that there is “definitely an action plan”.
“To ask me to put a line in the sand is asking the impossible right now. There is a very focused group of people who are working tirelessly to get us to a point where we can have a concrete written plan. Please remember we’re stepping into unchartered territory,” she says.
“Believe me this is WIP. As acting chair I have to sort this out and it is a priority. We’ve had verbal discussions; we just need to commit to KPAs in writing. What I can tell you is that stakeholder management, industry involvement, transparency, regular updates with industry media, are just a few of the tasks. Then of course there is the whole future of Saarf and it will either be a case of managing the winding up of the organisation or managing the change from the current Saarf structure to a future new and much-improved version. And not forgetting that there is the day-to-day running of the current organisation,” she says.
Hollis says Saarf stakeholders have” been amazing”.
“I do not think that there is one of them that is not 100% committed to finding a solution that works for all. The amount of time individuals have given up, business and personal, is truly remarkable and proof that we all want the same thing – the best and most credible research,” she says.
Hollis says the mending of relationships between all the stakeholder is “well underway”. The PDMSA and the NAB have met on numerous occasions and are forging a very positive way forward. Ettiene’s appointment has also been seen by all stakeholders as a very positive step forward”.
Of course funding the organisation is key and Hollis says funds have been committed for 2014.
‘Watch this space … you have our assurance that we will communicate on a far more regular basis going forward,” she says.
“The last couple of months have been tenuous and at times extremely unpleasant. This board, and particularly the NAB and PDMSA, have worked extremely hard to get us to a place where we can honestly say that there is a light and it is getting stronger every day.”