ARF Evolves To Enhance Member Value

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, November 26, 2018
The advertising and media research data and insights world has grown exponentially in the digital era, accompanied by hairy complexities at almost every turn.

In this environment, Barb Murrer, senior director of marketplace insights, Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco, took over the chair of ARF (Advertising Research Foundation) in August after four years on their board. She also has extensive international experience in all facets of the research/insights industry supporting marketers in building corporate brands.

Murrer underlined ARF’s substantial efforts to deliver highly focused short workshops, seminars and events across the U.S. versus major extensive conferences in NYC.

Earlier this year, ARF established seven core areas of focus as a result of a special member investigation, now being prioritized by them in a follow-up survey. They are:

    1. Audience media and ad measurement across platforms and Devices
    2. Measurement of marketing ROI and attribution
    3. Future states and emerging technologies for innovations in research methods
    4. Teams, talent, training and organizational design
    5. Consumer attitudes and behavior – drivers and trends
    6. Strategies for leveraging data Analytics to generate business insights
    7. Advertising creative



As reported in MediaPost's Media Daily News, ARF’s acquisition of CIMM (Coalition of Innovative Media Measurement) has already added an “innovation incubator” to its re-invigorated industry role.  CIMM is already working on 1, 2, 3 and elements of 6. 

In the end, it’s about the brand and its marketing, so as a West Coast advertiser, I asked Murrer: “Which of these do you believe will serve the members and the industry best?”  She indicated that while ARF will be guided by its membership, as a major global advertiser, she emphasized advertising creative.

She noted “creative is still king for any brand,” as supported by various ARF original research studies. Dr. Leslie Wood, CRO, Catalina Nielsen Solutions, has presented several papers related to the relative importance of creative at the ARF AudienceXScience annual conferences; perhaps the most contentious area of “science” for this “unique art form” within the areas of focus identified.

Just how the membership prioritizes these seven core areas is expected to be announced soon.  

According to Research World, September 2018, “U.S. Top 50 Report” by Diane Bowers, media research accounts for 32.5% of total U.S. research spend.  This segment of the U.S. ad research industry now reflects:

  • The “acquisition” of CIMM by ARF
  • ARFs growing importance as an informed, independent, neutral, insightful research provider
  • Continuing limitations of MRC (Media Rating Council) as structured and funded to execute audits across the ever-growing swath of industry media surveys and complex data integrations
  • Ever-escalating complexity and costs of producing media currencies that are comparable

This scenario leads to asking whether there could be a media measurement JIC (Joint Industry Committee) coming to the U.S. possibly via ARF/CIMM over the long term? This is an interesting concept for the ARF Chair. Murrer stated: “While monitoring, it is not on the ARF road map at this juncture.” 

Related to the seven areas of focus, the “pillars” of ARF have always been the support of advertisers and agencies via ANA and the 4As. The “drivers” of ARF have been the major media companies and large research vendors.  

Does that need to be re-balanced for ARF to add even more value to the industry? Murrer suggested she would want advertisers and advertising and media agencies to play a bigger role in ARF.  She recognizes that media companies and research vendors would be comfortable with that evolution, based on one of their primary goals, “understanding brand marketer’s issues.”  

As a result of a data privacy town hall in April that generated a huge audience, the ARF has launched what is surely a cornerstone initiative in today’s tsunami of data and its consistent abuses. It is developing a code of conduct on data “privacy” directed by a special ARF Review Board under the leadership of its CRO, Paul Donato. 

It will embrace some aspects of the European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which has considerable penalties for noncompliance.  Of course, GDPR already affects ARF members’ practices outside the U.S., notably for companies like Levi Strauss. 

Can, or should, ARF drive the ad industry to sufficiently protect consumer’s data via meaningful member penalties against privacy offenders wherever they are in the marketers’ integrated data chain? That question will be considered by the board when they receive the final draft of the proposed code. 

In view of the ongoing investigation and recent fines executed by the Information Commissioners Office in the UK against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, though shuttered, I asked Murrer if the 2017 Gold David Ogilvy Award given to Cambridge Analytica would be rescinded?  

Earlier this year, the ARF said, “a decision into the investigation would be forthcoming.” Murrer added: “It’s still under review.”

As a former chair of the Canadian Advertising Research Foundation and a former member of the ARF Board, this lack of integrity by such an esteemed industry organization saddens me. It adversely affects ARF’s hard-earned brand equity built over years, especially in this period of data piracy and “fake news.” 

It should be noted that Facebook is a member of ARF, as well as Google, which is on the board. On November 14, David Cicilline, (D) Rhode Island, tweeted: “Facebook cannot be trusted to regulate itself.”

With the privacy code of conduct imminent, it appears there may be opportunities and roles for the ARF to not only serve the ad industry and help protect consumers, but also provide expertise to Congress.

Interestingly ESOMAR, (World Association of Opinion and Marketing Research Professionals — formerly European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research) — which has been heavily involved with GDPR, is a member of this Special Data Privacy Review Board and Levi Strauss.  

It was no surprise that Murrer showed an interest in, “the evolving ARF” becoming more closely allied with organizations like ESOMAR (frequently discussed by prior boards) and other major international ad/research organizations to better serve its members. 

However, she also pointed out that “any change in international cooperation or collaboration needs to be gauged from members.”  


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