In an effort to unite sectors of the media and create and fund a central establishment survey, the Advertising Media Forum has launched a charter, writes Glenda Nevill.
The Advertising Media Forum (AMF) Charter, signed by some of the biggest names in the media agency arena, is the culmination of a two-year process that has resulted in a ‘road map’ to achieve independent, quality and unbiased media data. It covers the creation of an establishment survey; a vision for an industry body that would manage the process; and research that is aligned with global best practice.
It was launched at a recent presentation in Johannesburg, attended by media agencies, and advertising and marketing professionals. It received unanimous support for collective action to be taken on media research. The Charter recommends a “single independent data source that is the industry benchmark for all marketing, communication and media research”. This is to be “managed and controlled by an industry body directly funded by advertisers and marketers”. [See box below for 10-point charter]
Gordon Patterson, Omnicom business director, says, “In terms of the objectives of the Charter, it’s simple: to detail, clearly and succinctly, what marketers and media agencies expect from media research and to ensure that our media currency remains credible and objective.
“Over the past months there has been an enormous amount of mischief-making, shared half-truths and in some cases blatant misrepresentation of the facts all aimed at (I can only assume) dividing opinion,” he says. “The Charter unites and is built on the premise that we have more future ahead than history behind. And we had a proud past. We cannot go back, however, as this polarises views, hence we must go forward.”
The Charter is a response to recent upheavals in the field of media research. The validity of the Television Audience Measurement Survey (Tams) was questioned by free-to-air channels and, ultimately, was one of the reasons for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), representing television and radio, pulling out of the South African Audience Research Foundation (Saarf). The fall-out polarised stakeholders and caused many in the industry to question the validity of Saarf in today’s research landscape.
“Over the past year or so, there seemed to be a rather fractured response by the media agency world to the issues and developments around Saarf,” says former managing director of MediaCom, Britta Reid. “It was, therefore, heartening to see so many media agencies attempting to rally together, state their position and try to mobilise their clients. It may, however, be too late, and the views expressed may be somewhat idealistic and possibly somewhat anachronistic.”
Reid says this is understandable because two of the three presenters of the Charter are members of the Saarf board and would be “bound to fight for its preservation”. She says the fact that media owners weren’t invited to the presentation “indicates a less transparent agenda”.
Reid is concerned that for the industry to have research data any time in 2016, “work on the Establishment Survey needs to begin now”. She says the NAB will “continue to maintain its forward momentum, especially as it was not invited to discussions on the Charter”.
Reid says the NAB might not have been inclusive, but it has moved effectively. “The Tams panel is vastly improved, and the tender for Rams (Radio Audience Measurement Survey) is under way. The launch of the Charter signals a continued divide between the NAB and agencies. It also fails to engage those media (that) have been less ‘disruptive’. In essence, it is a statement that the agencies have little faith in the media owners to deliver objective currency,” she says.
Patterson says the Charter has achieved its first stage by realising credible client and media agency support. “To make it a reality we need to engage quickly with the media owners driving research initiatives to ensure that, collectively, we shape the future media currency. A great deal has been accomplished by the media owners and this effort should not fail but rather should be supported by a united client/media agency viewpoint,” he says.
Media consultant Gordon Muller believes media owners “need to decide whether they want to work with their clients to create a mutually acceptable path forward or continue to ignore the requests of their own clients”.
Within a year, Patterson says he hopes to see “a well-managed and robust establishment survey with separate platform surveys offering both quantitative and qualitative data and insight. I would like to see greater maturity by all concerned in better understanding synergy and the role of social media for example”.
Meanwhile, at Saarf the most pressing issue is the 2015 All Media and Products Survey (Amps) rollover. Chairwoman of the Saarf board, Virginia Hollis, says the organisation has agreement from all parties, but is yet to sign a funding agreement. “There is an issue over a shortfall that needs to be covered and we cannot move forward until this is resolved. In the big scheme of things it is a small amount of money, but until we have this resolved, we cannot sign a contract for the 2015 rollover,” she says.
She says marketers and media agencies are quite emphatic that they want the establishment surveys to sit in a neutral space. “So the next few months will be spent discussing how this will be achieved,” Hollis says. “What was very clear [at the presentation] was that everyone wanted single-source, independent data; that agencies and marketers needed to be far more involved, independent (of media owner joint industry committees or JICs); that technical oversight was paramount and that we need to constantly evolve.”
Hollis said the charter was designed by agencies to address specific agency and marketer needs. “The media owner JICs address media owner needs. They are mutually exclusive of one another. This does not mean that there are some commonalities, but there are differences,” she says.
The Media approached Print and Digital Media South Africa (PDMSA) for an update on the Print Audience Measurement Survey (Pams). The board met in late September to discuss this and other matters, including Saarf, and whether it should remain a member. But at the time of going to print, the PDMSA had not responded to questions. Earlier this year, it said its research committee had “already conceived an audience measurement plan for 2015” and that the print media industry’s interests and needs were “acknowledged by Saarf, and PDMSA is actively engaging on the establishment survey and Pams project”.
In the meantime, Saarf has established a business committee to look into how it should be funded and has employed a consultant, Johann Koster, to investigate funding models.
Muller says marketers will be asked to fund Saarf in partnership with media owners as outlined in the Charter, which says an establishment survey must be “equitably managed by advertisers/marketers and their agencies, and media owners”.
“This is the key point,” says Muller. “The Charter sets out to be inclusive of all interested parties in the best interests of the entire media industry, not just the exclusive commercial interest of media owners.”
Reid says what is needed is to answer the question of how media research and the relevant bodies are funded, rather than how Saarf is funded. “The media market has become much more complicated to research while contributions to Saarf have not kept pace to allow the concomitant evolution of the research. In the immediate future, there will have to be compromises made as to what can be adequately researched. Additional funding would therefore be valuable.”
This story was first published in the November 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
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