Outdoor Hatches JIC-Like Approach To Audience Measurement, Will Others Follow?
Previous attempts to create JICs--to measure television viewership, for example--have failed in the face of fierce opposition from syndicated ratings services like Nielsen, and renewed attempts would doubtless encounter the same obstacles. But one ad sector--outdoor--has moved swiftly in recent years to establish an approach that appears to operate much like a JIC, even if the group organizing it--the Traffic Audit Bureau (TAB), isn't calling it one. The approach was detailed on the symposium's first day by Clear Channel Outdoor's Global Director for Research Tony Jarvis, and on the second by TAB President-CEO Joseph Philport.
As Jarvis and Philport recalled, on April 23, the TAB announced that it had selected three media measurement and analytics firms--MRI, GfK, and Telmar--to formulate a system for measuring "eyes-on" demographic audience data in over 200 markets. TAB acted in response to concerns from board members who felt that outdoor measurement methods were badly outdated. On the agency side, the TAB board of directors includes executives from Zenith Media, OMD, Starcom Worldwide, MediaCom, MediaVest, and MindShare, who sit on the board with senior executives from advertisers like Ford, Anheuser Busch, Kraft, and ESPN.
Speaking at a seminar titled "Innovations in Methods for Media," Philport made plain the implications of the outdoor industry's work for creation and ownership of data: "Our industry is going to own the data, and that's radically different from the world where suppliers owned the data... By our having data ownership, and ownership of the structure, we can refresh the data over time, perhaps with data from different suppliers." Meanwhile, the new modeling techniques formulated by the TAB's approach will have further consequences, Philport predicted: "With regard to focus, the conductors of the surveys have always been king--but I think in the new world of data integration, the importance of the modeling and analytics role will increase, because they're the ones who are going to integrate the numbers."
Executives from other industry sectors weren't nearly as explicit as Philport, but all the same there were hints that JIC-type structures might be in the offing for other media. During the same seminar, for example, the audience was treated to a curious joint presentation by Jane Bailey, vice president of corporate marketing information for Time, Inc., and Roberta McConochie, director of PPM client relations for Arbitron, who described promising preliminary studies of new magazine readership measurement techniques undertaken at Time's behest.
According to Bailey, Time, Inc. has been cooperating closely with Arbitron for at least two years, going so far as giving advice on the design of a new device for measuring individual magazine readership: "After Arbitron's 2004 tests of various devices, Arbitron, with input from Time Inc. refined the prototype for the 2005-2006 research that we're going to discuss today." Bailey and McConochie's initial research in 2004 studied the physical dynamics of magazine reading, allowing the creation of an ergonomically suitable device with technology based on Arbitron's Portable People Meter (PPM), and then extended to lab and field studies with the device. The studies revealed large increases in both the number of interactions and overall time spent reading magazines compared to self-recorded diaries, Bailey and McConochie said--although the cost of the people meter system for magazines remains an issue.
The impetus seems to extend to "new media," as indicated by a passionate address by Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer at TBS, on the symposium's first day: "CNN Wireless is available to 140 million wireless data devices, but how many people are actually viewing it? We can only tell from our server lines--that's the best kind of data we've got. That's my world." Wakshlag added: "We do the best we can to get information from syndicated services, but we're doing a lot more than that." Wakshlag ended his presentation with a call for the creation of a single measurement standard and ratings currency for multi-platform brands like CNN.com. Meanwhile, Nielsen//NetRatings' slow rollout of measurement for video and audio content, announced just last week, suggests a real dearth of data in this area.