The South African Audience Research Foundation (Saarf) and its major stakeholders have taken several steps towards ensuring media is supplied with the independent research it urgently needs, and started mapping the route that will see their concepts become reality.
Stakeholders have launched the Advertising Media Forum’s Charter, which lays out a 10-point vision on how to fund and create a central establishment survey, and Saarf has established a business committee (excluding the National Association of Broadcasters but including all other Saarf constituencies) to drive an initiative to look future funding models. This committee has approved the funding and employed a consultant, Johann Koster, to “engage with industry stakeholders to gauge the industry’s need for independent research and the funding” of such research.
Saarf chairwoman, Virginia Hollis, says earlier ‘futureproof’ research done by Kuper Research did not cover the issue of funding.
“Johann will be looking to establish what funding model methodologies could work in South Africa. To do this he will have to investigate international best practice and interview agencies, marketers and media owners – including joint industry committees (JICs) and associations. No small task I’m sure you will agree,” Hollis told The Media Online.
The starting point is to interview people in the target groups, says Hollis. “Some of this will be done one on one, some in workshops. We need to establish industry research needs, plus how best to fund independent research. We have no doubt that we will get a very varied response,” she says.
The data collected by the futureproof project won’t go to waste as it’s being “revisited”, says Hollis. “We certainly do not want to redo what was done in 2012. Jos, Lauren, Clive and Peter did an amazing job,” she says.
Hollis says funding for the Amps 2015 is in place, but that time is tight. “This year we are focusing on completing phase one. When this is complete we will know how to move forward with phase two. I’m sorry it seems vague, but this process is going to take time and we really do not want to promise that we will have answers soon,” she says. Time and access to the right people will be the on-going challenge.
“The AMF clearly stated in their meetings with agencies and marketers that independent research is critical. At the same time the AMF also stated categorically that the media owner JICs are doing a great job. The TV research we are currently seeing is the best it has ever been, and they are sure that the other JICs will do an equally impeccable job. Saarf believes that Johann’s mandate will benefit the entire industry,” Hollis says.
The future of Saarf is still not clear, however. Will it be saved in its current incarnation?
“It’s not about saving Saarf, it’s about how the industry is going to handle oversight to ensure that the research is unbiased and therefore credible,” says Hollis. “Will this be Saarf? I don’t know. What I do know is that if Saarf stays there will be a complete rebranding and reengineering of the organisation. There is a huge amount of institutional memory in the organisation. The industry should not want to lose that completely.”
In the meantime, the AMF says its charter gives a “road map” for how it foresees the rollout of independent research. Board member Gordon Patterson says it’s a “remarkable initiative”.
“In my 25 years in industry, it is the first time that we, as an industry of marketers and media agencies, have come together,” he says. “We have united to define our industry’s future, and we are determined to work with media owners and research companies that share a common position.”
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