Originally published on Marklives.com, 15 February 2021
By Carey Finn. We catch up with Josephine Buys, Publisher Research Council (PRC) CEO and former Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) South Africa founding CEO, on research trends from 2020. First, though, Buys introduces us to FUSION2020 — a collaboration between the PRC, Broadcast Research Council (BRC) and Nielsen that debuted in November last year. The PRC is well-known for its PAMS research, which measures local reading behaviour across platforms and is used to make advertising decisions. FUSION2020 offers many, many more insights, she says.
Q5: Unpack FUSION2020 for us: What data does it contain? Who would find it helpful?
Josephine Buys: FUSION2020 has almost four times the number of data points than any other survey in the history of media research in South Africa. More, in this type of research, really is more. More data gives more insights and this enables better media planning and increased advertising return on investment. The four data sets are:
Publisher Audience Measurement Survey (PAMS): PAMS forms the fusion hub. It is the most complete measurement of reader audiences across all platforms. This national survey of 10 000 households is flooded to over 15 000 respondents in all 233 municipalities, making it really useful as a broad-based survey. In addition, it is the first South African survey in history to include income in the sample design through using the trusted Neighbourhood Lifestyle Index.
Television Audience Measurement Survey (TAMS): The BRCSA TAMS panel of 3 000 households measures linear television. This means the survey is representative of the almost 16m households who watch traditional television.
Consumer Panel Services (CPS): Nielsen performed the statistical FUSION between the surveys used, and included [its] own CPS data — that captures the ongoing FMCG purchases of 4 000 homes. The panel tracked all brand and product purchases using a nationally representative sample across SA for the 12-month period ending February 2020. Most importantly, it is based on actual purchases, audited with till slips and packaging, unlike traditional purchasing claimed in diaries. Sales volumes are based on heavy, medium and light users in 199 categories, and over 6 000 brands, of which more than 2 200 are included in FUSION2020. Globally, many FMCG companies subscribe to this data. This means it is congruent with their own inhouse workings and marketing departments.
Digital Consumer Survey (DCS): As part of a global survey in 2020, the DCS offers an array of further media consumption insights. The fieldwork was conducted during July and August 2020, meaning it also offers insights into covid-19 and lockdown lifestyles. The online survey of 3 000 respondents is representative of all digital consumers, 15 years and older, who had access to the internet in the last month. The online universe for the study was derived from PAMS 2019. While DCS covers traditional media consumption, for the first time it also gives planners insight into online vs traditional television broadcasting, over-the-top (OTT) services and streaming behaviour. Platforms, brands, types of content watched, internet technology in households, podcasts and social media usage are measured — frequency of consumption and place — as well as the device used is also measured. In addition, concurrent dual usage of media types is uncovered. Full daypart recording of media consumption enables planners and brand managers to understand consumers and witness a typical day in the life of any target market or brand user.
Q5: Map out the road to this research — how did it happen? What inspired the collaboration?
JB: The PRC and the BRC have worked together on the Establishment Survey (ES) since 2016, so we have a long history of working together. In 2018, the PRC and Nielsen pioneered FUSION in SA, first with CPS and later the following year with DCS. FUSION2020 is the successor to these studies and was driven by the PRC. Given that television accounts for up to 65% of adspend, we wanted to include BRC television data to continue our FUSION partnership with Nielsen. Having started our new roles within months of one another, Gary Whitaker [BRC CEO] and I realised from the outset that we share a common passion for transparency and collaboration to do what’s best for the industry by providing the best possible insights for media planners and advertisers. This partnership was further cemented earlier in 2020 when the BRC decided to use PAMS, instead of the ES, to define the TAMS universe. So, it was an obvious choice to further collaborate with the BRC on FUSION2020. FUSION is undoubtedly the future of media research and we are fully committed to working with other [joint industry councils] (like IAB and OMC) in future to fuse more surveys. A six- or even eight-way FUSION can provide far deeper customer insights and will adequately meet the ever-increasing research needs of the marketing and media industry.
Q5: What were two-to-three standout findings for you, from the research last year?
JB: No. 1 is digital acceleration. While many businesses had started to recognise and explore digital transformation, the pandemic and subsequent hard lockdowns accelerated digital transformation for many enterprises, both public and private. Agile organisations could pivot quickly to manage their businesses through digital means. In our research sector, for example, face-to-face interviews had already become challenging, even before covid-19. Fortunately, we and our research partners were able to swiftly go digital to access increasingly more digital-savvy audiences and research panellists online.
The value of reliable data is widely recognised. Hub- and donor-fused datasets are also now seen as extremely valuable, because fused research offers such a wealth of data — in fact, much more than any of us could afford to conduct alone. This philosophy of working together provides marketers, advertisers and media the opportunity to access greater and deeper insights, together, through collaboration and partnerships.
Digital audiences have become more sophisticated during the pandemic; so, too, have peddlers of misinformation and disinformation. While there is growing awareness of the algorithmic manipulation inherent in big tech (particularly on social media platforms), with many readers consciously seeking trusted sources of news, it’s clear that far more educational awareness is needed around disinformation. Consumers want to know which media they can trust, and why. Through using credible research, media decision-makers at least have the assurance that they are placing advertising in trusted sources of news and information.
Q5: How did the pandemic impact media consumption, really? And will it go “back to normal” when the rest of life does?
JB: Media consumption will never go back to a pre-pandemic normal. It’s no secret that some media did not survive, with several longstanding magazines ceasing production, due in large part to advertisers pulling up the handbrake on media spend during the initial uncertainty of the hard lockdown. Print publications were especially hit hard as some couldn’t print or distribute. Circulation numbers dropped when the first lockdown began and may never recover. That being said, not only did the strongest (and I guess most agile) survive, some thrived as readers moved from paper to screen, as shown in the monthly adspend lockdown tracker. There are also now some green shoots of hope. The famously digital-first Daily Maverick launched a weekend print edition during the pandemic. News brands are experimenting with various revenue streams, such as paywalls, subscriptions, donor or membership funding, events and more, to entice audiences who are increasingly more confident online.
I believe we will see boomers (aka wealthy readers), who have recently been thoroughly baptised online, remaining active with their newly adopted digital habits, including sourcing trusted news, information and entertainment online, most likely from a variety of sources as awareness grows around the increase in misinformation online. I am on the record (as founding CEO of IAB SA) that I do not believe print will die; I believe it will become niche and therefore extraordinarily valuable. This would still hold true for me in a post-pandemic world. Those of us who love reading may return to the nostalgia of the written word on paper and, who knows, perhaps the increasingly truth-seeking youth may make trusted news cool again and check their sources before they start ‘spreading the news’.