Madison Avenue Overhauls Its Media Model, Will The Media Follow

by , Sep 25, 2003, 12:00 AM
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A new ad industry model for validating the effects of advertising is placing the onus on media to be responsible not just for delivering a message to consumers, but also to ensure consumers are attentive, are persuaded and actually respond to the ads they receive. The shift, part of a fundamental rethinking about the roles of advertising and media, has huge implications for how agencies plan and buy media and, ultimately, for how media companies sell their inventory.

The change, which is underscored by the new Advertising Research Foundation model "Making Better Media Decisions, so far is mostly theoretical and largely the province of agency media researchers and media research vendors, who have embraced it as a way to improve both media planning and advertising effectiveness. But it still faces considerable resistance from the media industry - particularly from television companies - are loath to change the underlying currencies of their marketplace that are the basis for sales.

Some of Madison Avenue's leading media researchers underscored this point Thursday during the ARF's annual Week of Workshops conference in New York, where the new model got its first full-blown public airing and a fair share of debate over even basic elements of the model such as the role of media exposure and the best way to have it measured.

That debate centered on the prospects for a new media measurement system built around Arbitron's new portable people meter technology that simultaneously measures multiple forms of media. Currently, Arbitron has been testing the devices ability to simultaneously measure TV and radio - including their out-of-home usage - but the company's Director of Consumer & Industry Trends Roberta McConochie said Arbitron has already begun exploring how the meter could be used to measure other media, as well as product usage.

Media research consultant Leslie Wood has been working with Arbitron and marketing research companies including Information Resources Inc. to integrate portable people meters with consumer product usage scanner panels. McConochie said Arbitron also is looking at encoding commercials so that advertisers could finally reap TV and radio commercial ratings, which would be a major win for Madison Avenue.

As promising as the new technology is for improving the measurement of media exposure, several top agency researchers said the problem would be convincing the media to get on board.

These are not technological issues or research issues. They are political issues," asserted Kate Lynch, Global Media Research Director at Starcom MediaVest Group.

The politics surrounding the deployment of the portable people meter are two-fold, because major media companies would be reluctant to shift how their audiences are measured (and consequently how they are bought and sold) and, secondly, because they historically have underwritten the primary cost of media measurement.

And while the changes in measurement likely would yield better research, the impact on the media marketplace would be profound, changing shares of media impressions among media companies and even expanding the base of impressions to include out-of-home media usage. Other simultaneous advances in media measurement already are in development that could impact the accuracy and supply of advertising inventory. The out-of-home media industry has been testing new systems based on global positioning satellite technology that some researchers believe could dramatically increase outdoor media's share of the advertising pie. At least one major market outside the U.S., South Africa, has already agreed to deploy such as system for its outdoor ad industry and Nielsen Media Research has set plans to begin testing the technology in Chicago,

But if the debate surrounding improvements in the measurement of media exposure are a hot topic, they may be nothing compared to the new levels of the ARF model, including attentiveness, persuasion and response.

While agencies have been exploring and developing ways of developing surrogate measures of attentiveness, the industry still lacks a standard approach. Many shops utilize the Reader Involvement Index developed by top publishers like Reader's Digest, which utilizes data from Mediamark Research Inc., while others use similar approaches utilizing Nielsen QUAD data. Some agencies also have developed custom research are using unconventional syndicated data such as Marketing Evaluations Inc.'s Q scores as a proxy for viewer involvement, or attentiveness.

The development of standardized measures of advertising persuasiveness might be even more difficult, especially since it blurs the role of advertising messages and the responsibility of media vehicles. Recently, some media agencies have been using techniques developed for measuring the impact of creative messages, such as copy-testing, to understand the impact various media vehicles have in contributing to ad persuasion.

But those efforts have been largely "TV-centric," said consultant Erwin Ephron who chaired the day-long discussion of the new ARF model.

Britta Ware Director of U.S. Advertising Research at Reader's Digest agreed, noting that a relatively small percentage of print ads - 15% to 20% - are even copy tested, whereas 70% of TV ads are.

Ware said that lack of magazine ad testing contributed to a bias at creative agencies toward a greater reliance on TV ads and at media agencies toward heavier weights of TV ad spending. She said it is typical for a media shop to budget only "8 or 9 GRPs" (gross rating points) per week for a magazine ad campaign versus a minimum of 50 GRPs per week for a typical TV ad campaign.

She advocated that both creative and media shops rethink their approach to magazines, involving the medium far earlier in their planning process and budgeting higher weight levels in the end, "because you will sell more product, and at a lower cost."

Others cited examples of TV centricity, including Paul Silverman, director of media services at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. show said marketers don' t budget higher print GRP levels, because they don't test print ads "and they don't test print ads, because they don't have the budget." He said the same is true for other non-TV media, citing a recent example where outdoor was stripped from a plan because there was no "ROI" (return on investment) measure for it. "But you have no ROI for TV," he said.

The TV-centric mentality is so systemic that it affects the very fundamentals of media planning, added Ephron, asserting that most planners look at how each individual media delivers reach against a target, a process likely to favor TV, as opposed to looking at how combinations of media can optimize reach in a media plan.

"You have to be naïve if you think that's how media planning is being done today," Starcom's Lynch challenged Ephron, implying that agencies are employing a much deeper array of research, including attentiveness and persuasion measures to weight the impact of media in their mix.

"You have to be suspicious of agencies who say they do that but aren't willing to talk about it. What's the great mystery," Ephron told MediaDailyNews.

Levels Of New ARF Model: "Making Better Media Decisions"

 
1 - Vehicle Distribution
2 - Vehicle Exposure
3 - Advertising Exposure
4 - Advertising Attentiveness (New)
5 - Advertising Communication
6 - Advertising Persuasion (New)
7 - Advertising Response (New)
8 - Sales Response (New)

Source: The ARF

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