The media agencies, through the AMF Charter, have stated that they and their clients are looking for an Establishment Survey (ES) that will be “the single independent data source that is the industry benchmark for all marketing, communication and media research”. This statement is clearly infused with a deep nostalgia for Amps. Similarly the requirement that it be managed by and controlled by an industry body directly funded by advertisers and marketers indicates a fondness for the days of the Saarf levy, writes Britta Reid.
With the Tams panel having undergone its initial overhaul and the RACs contract moving ahead, the question of the Establishment Survey comes to the fore. It is therefore timely to remind ourselves of the purpose of an Establishment Survey. The Future Proofing Audience Research project, commissioned by Saarf and presented in 2013, highlighted the international trend to use Establishment Survey data to link a variety of dedicated specialist media surveys via fusion or multi-basing. In short, an Establishment Survey is the mechanism that ensures that all industry research reflects the same population sizes and demographics, allowing marketers as well as media strategists and buyers to have a consistent and coherent view of the market across various surveys.
At the most purist level an Establishment Survey provides the population, household and demographic estimates of the universe, and serves provides the weights or quotas for all other research. It facilitates the monitoring of changes is the population. Typically it would provide controls for the Tams panel and could be the source of panel recruitment. It serves as a hub for the integration of other data sets and can be the distribution route for other data collection.
As the Future Proofing report pointed out, internationally there is a great deal of precedent for Joint Industry Councils (JICS) to run and oversee their specialist media surveys separately. Of necessity, there is also precedent for them to work together on producing a central Establishment Survey. This requires a strong degree of collaboration between JICS. It is not only important to ensure that the population estimates are correct but that the survey meets the needs of the various media, and these needs do tend to differ.
Regional media may require particular sampling in broadcast or distribution areas, and some media may require more attention be given to rural areas. There is no doubt that the participation of independent specialist consultants will be crucial in ensuring that these differing needs can be balanced and that there is a solid non-biased foundation for all research going forward. Obviously for peace of mind all stakeholders need to participate and be comfortable with the level of credibility and transparency in the process.
It is important to note that an Establishment Survey does not necessarily provide the basis for inter-media comparisons, let alone provide a host of product and branded data. It certainly would simplify matters for the end user if the new South African ES were to also provide the basis for broad inter-media comparisons. Of course, as the Future Proofing exercise pointed out for this component of the survey to be useful all media types need to “participate”, which is now a code for contribute to the costs. Furthermore great care needs to be taken to ensure that the media questions produce a fair and unbiased picture of media consumption. Certainly the end users of the data need to give their input on how they use the data.
There is a school of thought that product and branded data should also be included – essentially maintaining the status quo. It is worth remembering that AMPS did not always contain the myriad of brands that it does currently. It was only when Barbara Cooke and Tim Bester sought to introduce TGI to South Africa that Saarf went on the offensive, attempting to close down the very real opportunity that existed for a survey that probed consumer values and behaviour in relation to brands. Saarf then added brands and attitudinal questions to Amps. In so doing obviously costs went up, and AMPS was produced within severe budgetary constraints. Perhaps the constant struggle with resource was one of the reasons that innovation took such a back seat at Saarf over the past years, leaving us with a somewhat ossified product.
Of course years ago, it was clearly appealing to believe that AMPS could do the job of TGI and save the marketers and agencies from having to invest in this product. However, for global clients TGI is the primary source of attitudinal and brand information. It is run in almost 70 countries and provides a tool for global segmentation. In my agency days, we had several clients who required the use of the survey to reflect their global strategies. Utilising TGI would “synch” South Africa with the rest of the world. With a sound ES, integrating TGI into the mix would be eminently possible. What it would require is a rethinking of the current South African TGI business model.
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