Commentary

Why I Left The ARF

  • by , Featured Contributor, April 18, 2019
As many of you may have read, I resigned my board seat and membership in the Advertising Research Foundation.

A number of folks have reached out, wanting to know more, so I thought it might be helpful to share with you the note I sent my fellow members on the ARF board of trustees, where I tried to lay out my reasons:

Good afternoon,

I am leaving the board and membership of the ARF and am including below the note that I sent to Scott [Scott McDonald, president & CEO, ARF] earlier today so that you know my reasons why.

I have tremendous respect for the organization and its history and for Scott and his work as it tries to find its footing for the future. However, I'm impatient by habit (and profession) and believe this is the time for bolder action.

I joined the ARF board several years ago hoping that together we could truly attack the challenges that advertisers face in the realm of ad measurement and analytics and prove that what we do in our industry works and is a path for their growth.

Unfortunately, I am no longer of the opinion that my time and resources can be most impactful at the ARF. Thus, my decision to leave the ARF and put that time and resources behind other initiatives. I'm happy to discuss my thoughts and reasoning with any who want to know more.

Thank you. I've enjoyed serving and working together in pursuit of such an important mission.

Take care,

Dave

And here's the note I sent to the ARF:

Scott,

Consistent with the conversation that I had with you the other week, I am resigning from the board of the ARF, and Simulmedia will be dropping its membership. It is not an issue of your management of the organization.

Rather, as we have discussed, it is clear that the agenda of the ARF today is to drive incremental improvements across a broad array of advertising research areas and issues at a moment in time when I believe the organization needs to be bold and singularly focused on helping advertisers prove that advertising works -- and fixing its measurement in a world that has rapidly become digital and omnichannel.

Leadership in these areas is happening within the proprietary silos of the large digital marketing platforms and at organizations like the MRC Lab and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

As a start-up entrepreneur trying to constantly focus only on those activities that will produce the most and best results, I and Simulmedia plan to put our energies, resources and focus in this area behind the initiatives coming out of the ANA, since that organization represents the advertisers, the constituents who must be at the center of this work, and which has now made the issue of advertising, measurement and analytics a top priority for the organization.

We know that marketers need growth. We believe that advertising can help deliver that growth, but also believe the industry's "best practices" in advertising measurement, analytics and research have not kept up with changes in consumer behavior or with advances in offerings in the market.

I am hopeful that the best place to solve those problems will be with the advertisers (and marketers) themselves.

I wish the ARF the best of luck. Thanks for your smart, committed stewardship of the organization.

Take care,

Dave

Does this mean  I don’t care about the ARF? Quite the opposite. I care deeply about the organization, but I care more about its founding mission from 1936: “to improve the practice of advertising, marketing, and media research in pursuit of more effective marketing and advertising communications.”

My concern is that over time we took to treating the business of research as the mission, rather than just a means toward the end of driving more effective marketing and advertising for the people who are paying for it.

Doesn't the industry have time to come up with thoughtful, consensus-driven solutions? No, I don’t think we have that much time.

The number-one and two sellers of advertising in the U.S., and probably four of the top 10, operate almost entirely on proprietary measurements that are largely opaque to the market. I also don’t think the innovations we need will come from consensus decisions.

We need boldness, not consensus.

That's what research legend Bill Harvey did in inventing the Area of Dominant Influence (the ADI, which was a predecessor to the DMA), and creating geodemographic marketing as we know it. 

That's what Jack Myers, Dave Poltrack and Arlene Manos did in the late 1970s at WABC and CBS-TV when they used attribution sales research to bring the first retail ad dollars to television. 

That's what Erwin Ephron did when he proved the value of recency in advertising.

That's what we’re seeing today from NBCU’s Linda Yaccarino and Viacom’s Sean Moran with CFlight, their open-sourced approach to cross-media measurement to make TV advertising more accessible to digital advertisers.

Why did I make my resignation so public? I shared my ARF note with MediaPost because I believed that many others in the industry probably had the same concerns and frustrations and might find solace in knowing that they weren’t alone -- and that together we could spur bolder and more impactful action in pursuit of fixing ad measurement.

Where do I think  this mission can be fulfilled? I’m excited that the board of the ANA has recently taken up the mantle to fix advertising measurement on behalf of their members, thousands of the largest companies actually buying the advertising -- and the group that, together with the 4A’s, started the ARF back in 1936. I guess the criticality of the mission has finally come full circle, and it’s a place where boldness can happen.

What do you think?

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