11 October 2021 – 07:00
A significant portion of advertising placement decisions are guided by comprehensive consumer behaviour and demographic research studies commissioned by media industries, such as the Broadcast Research Council of SA (BRC), which represents television and radio; the Interactive Advertising Bureau SA (IAB SA), representing online; and the Publisher Research Council (PRC), representing read media. The goal of these studies is to produce a standardised currency used for media placement planning and decision-making for the specific sector.
Comprehensive, ongoing research produced by these joint industry councils (JICs) for each media type is expensive and time-consuming. However, the benefits outweigh the cost, as a research currency for advertisers to be able to make informed placement decisions is crucial.
The Dutch lead the way
A major development in the creation of a cross-industry media currency in the Netherlands indicates what can be achieved when JICs work together. Launched in April 2021, Nationaal Media Onderzoek (National Media Research), or NMO, has revolutionised advertising media decision-making there, as advertisers and their agencies now have access to a research currency that tracks total audiences across media types in a single study, including readership, listenership and viewership of printed, online, video and audio media.
NMO describes itself as providing the “world’s first true cross-media total audience measurement solution”. It adds: “In combining audience viewing, listening, browsing and reading through a single, integrated system [NMO] will deliver deeper insights to understand Dutch audiences and enable richer trading currencies for each media. The new approach will enable advertisers and agencies to optimise the performance of media channels – both in isolation and when combined in a cross-media campaign.”
Described as “the biggest step change towards a total view of audience measurement”, NMO will deliver the building blocks for cross-media planning and evolution through deeper, consumer-centric insights. In addition, it provides a future-proof, open system to enable the whole media industry to expand measurement through additional devices and platforms, as audience behaviour continues to change and evolve. Cost efficiencies are realised through increasing cross-media outputs and by reducing the individual cost for each currency by aligning panels, samples and measurement technologies.
NMO’s audience measurement research will be the first integrated solution globally to deliver currency-level data across media and platforms.
Apart from the local Dutch JICs, media and advertising agencies and data science firms are all a part of NMO. This ensures participation and acceptance of the currency produced from all stakeholders.
Are we ready to explore total audience measurement in SA?
From my experience as CEO of the PRC, and formerly the CEO of IAB SA, I believe it is crucial for us to collectively explore the opportunities offered by working together as JICs, agencies and data analysts to benefit from the efficacies of a co-operative approach to future audience research.
This belief stems from the realities of definition blurring between media types, as well as from witnessing worldwide audience measurement trends as indicated by NMO. In addition, the sheer cost of high-quality media research will most likely necessitate industry collaboration of one kind or another.
I agree with the informed opinion of independent media maven Britta Reid, who said in an opinion piece about the future of audience measurement earlier this year that media buyers and sellers need an agreed currency to trade with. She says the SA industry needs to work towards one audience measurement solution that meets the needs of both the marketing and the media fraternity to facilitate informed investment decision-making.
The PRC has recently experienced significant success in working with the BRC to produce a cross-media research product called Fusion. Working alongside our research partner Nielsen, Fusion uses four different research studies covering reading, viewing and online media, as well as consumer behaviour.
The results of the introduction of Fusion are encouraging. In the PRC’s own user-experience survey among media decision-makers conducted earlier this year, we were encouraged to learn that not long after its launch, Fusion was already becoming a popular research product.
A total of 149 qualified respondents completed the PRC’s own survey. Of these respondents, 96 (64%) indicated they are aware of Fusion2020 and 49 (53%) of those who are aware, have used it, including 74% revealing that they find it extremely or very useful, while 69% indicated that Fusion2020 is extremely credible.
This kind of approach is the future of audience measurement in SA. We will experience similar benefits to that realised in the Netherlands through NMO. Like the Dutch, while our primary goal is to unlock cross-media, audience-centric insights to enable optimum performance of each medium to fuel content and advertising decisions, delivering cost efficiencies will be a welcome additional intended consequence.
The PRC has been at the forefront of pioneering future thinking in audience measurement and we consider co-operation across JICs as the natural way going forward.
Moving in the right direction
All indications are that local industry role-players are equally interested in collaborating towards total media audience measurement (TMAM). Early discussions with other JICs, as well as with respected organisations such as the Marketing Research Foundation (MRF), suggest that the broader media industry stakeholders are open to start this discussion.
For agencies and advertisers, a local version of what the Dutch have achieved with TMAM will enable better insights. Even more importantly, through the process of creating a total audience measurement product, these key stakeholders will be able to provide input by answering this crucial question: “What do you, the users of the data, need the most?”
It’s a long road ahead towards a complete collaborative media audience measurement, but I believe it will happen if we work positively together to achieve a synergistic research future, in which the whole is indeed bigger than the sum of its constituent parts.
This article was first published in Financial Mail.