Behind the Numbers: The ARF's new advertising measurement model implores media executives to rethink how they plan.

Usually, MEDIA’s Behind the Numbers section features a report on timely data, with perspectives from additional sources describing the limitations or biases of the study. But a new advertising measurement model being released by the ARF (formerly the Advertising Research Foundation) lays important enough groundwork for how advertising and media should be measured that it’s worth writing about here — even though the report is more of an outline of what will constitute future numbers than a presentation of the numbers themselves.

The new ARF monograph, entitled "Making Better Media Decisions," has been approved for publication by the ARF board of directors following recent finalization by a committee of industry experts.

The measurement model accentuates how enormously media has changed since the ARF first created such a model in 1961. (Some subtle changes to the model were made in 1993, but according to Next Century Media CEO Bill Harvey, one of the model’s authors, those changes were minimal.) For one, it acknowledges the weakness of advertising in an increasingly media-saturated world. The model says that today, plans are focused on what it calls "recency," trying to place advertising as close to the time of sale as possible.

It also takes into account the vast changes wrought by direct response vehicles. The Internet and the still nascent interactive TV industry should change the way advertisers think about media, the model stresses, and so should new measurement tools such as scanner data and marketing-mix modeling that take into account consumer response.

But there’s more. In its own polite language, the ARF upbraids the industry for being stuck in its ways. The model’s purpose, it says, is to "encourage media planners and buyers to use explicit estimates of performance in choosing media, replacing feelings, last year’s plan or common practice with measurements." Thus, the ARF endorses radical change in the metrics of awareness, recall, likability and intent-to-purchase. In the new model, there are eight levels of "paid media performance," accenting attentiveness, persuasion and response. The first three levels are described by the ARF as "pure media effects,"underscoring the role media planning plays in the marketing mix (see across), but the other five emphasize how important creative has become, because there is often direct cause and effect between an ad and the ability to buy something. The new guidelines come as the ARF has been working with other industry organizations such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to help standardize audience measurement across multiple media. "We invented this jargon — clicks and ad views and page views," says Jim Spaeth, president of the ARF. "We need to direct people to standard media terminology and get people to talk the same language."

The ARF’s new Digital Media Measurement Council had its first meeting to start working on measurement problems such as inconsistent definitions and sampling techniques and data discrepancy between third-party measurement companies and web publishers. It is also updating the Coalition for Advertising Supported Information and Entertainment glossary of ad definitions to relate traditional metrics to online metrics, and is working with the IAB on an ad-serving study.

Whatever the outcome of those initiatives, it’s clear that both the new model and the ARF’s moves toward industry standardization across on- and offline media demonstrate the organization’s position that advertisers and agencies need to increasingly integrate all media in media plans and measurement. The ARF has concluded that it has long ceased to be good enough to focus on consumer exposure to media as a measure of effectiveness; the fact that media can now facilitate interaction necessitates that advertising be measured in many different ways. For a long time, it’s been possible to avoid so precisely measuring the cause-and-effect relationship between advertising and sales. Until now.

1. Vehicle Distribution Described as the physical units through which advertising is distributed.

2. Vehicle Exposure Defined as the number of people exposed to the vehicle who paid attention to it.

3. Advertising Exposure A narrower definition: a count of the people exposed to the vehicle who also are exposed to its advertising.

4. Advertising Attentiveness Even narrower, measuring which of those people paid attention to the ad.

5. Advertising Communication A recall metric, looking at how well consumers retain the advertising information.

6. Advertising Persuasion A measure of how the advertising may have influenced those who saw it.

7. Advertising Response Involves measuring action, ranging from a visit to a showroom to a click-through on an online banner ad.

8. Sales Response Measures whether the product or service is actually purchased.

Staff writer Jack Loechner can be reached at

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