Future-proofing currency research in line with the changing landscape became paramount in 2020, a year that required us to innovate and operate outside of our comfort zones.
We were presented with myriad challenges that could have made progress impossible had we not chosen to seek out opportunity in the face of adversity. Covid-19 and the accompanying lockdown laws and regulations, including media and advertising, impacted all sectors.
Market research, under normal circumstances, is an area that is continually under scrutiny due to its importance in strategic decision-making. It is, for all intents and purposes, an essential service in the media and advertising industry.
Currency research is arguably the most scrutinised due to its impact on revenue streams for broadcasters and advertisers alike. Therefore, a core requirement of this research is accuracy, which in turn requires that it be able to keep up with and adapt to changing circumstances. Future-proofing our currency research in line with the changing landscape therefore became paramount in 2020.
As the pandemic hit and level 5 lockdown ensued there was no doubt that we would see fluctuations in audience data for both TV and radio – a huge disruptor being the changes to people’s daily routines and habits. People were no longer commuting to and from work; working hours were altered by home schooling, family life, and restrictions on movement, social interactions and the like. The shifts in routines and habits led to shifts in media consumption: mainly an increase in listening and viewing.
Safeguarding RAMS and TAMS
Both the television and radio currencies were impacted as the makeup of the underlying research methodologies involved some form of critical face-to-face interaction, namely interviewing respondents for the Radio Audience Measurement Survey (RAMS) and maintaining the inner workings of the panel for Television Audience Measurement Survey (TAMS).
We were therefore faced with an urgent need to replace face-to-face methodologies with virtual methodologies for both RAMS and TAMS. While the TAMS panel remained stable and within acceptable levels of health, RAMS did not stand up well to the lockdown landscape as all fieldwork ceased. After careful consideration by all relevant stakeholders, the decision was made to run a fully comprehensive request for proposal. This allowed suppliers in the market to come forward with best practice proposals that would safeguard and future-proof the study.
This year we are moving from a radio measurement paradigm to an audio measurement model to ensure we capture the full spectrum of audio, which includes linear and non-linear radio consumption as well as channels such as podcasting.
In 2020, in terms of television, we saw a steady increase in online streaming and use of digital. Measurement of online viewing habits is a core focus for the Broadcast Research Council (BRC) in 2021.
The future is fusion
A monumental win in 2020 came in the form of Fusion 2020, which answered the call of the media industry to bring a merged dataset to the market, including television data, products and brands, and insights into online behaviour. In partnership with the Publisher Research Council and Nielsen, the BRC was able to ensure these hitherto unseen data points were incorporated into TAMS.
In 2021 we will focus on the next possible iteration and investigate the possibility of incorporating RAMS data into Fusion.
Gary Whitaker is CEO of the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa. He has over 17 years’ experience in the fields of market research, media strategy, and traditional and digital marketing. He has held positions at AC Nielsen, Millward Brown, Mindshare, Nestlé S.A., MTN and Publicis Media. Gary’s core focus is delivering accurate data to enable the deep and meaningful consumer insights that form the basis for sound strategies.
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