In what appears to be an industry first, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) is teaming with seven industry research and/or media suppliers to conduct research on digital device usage and account sharing, which it plans to ultimately launch as a syndicated measurement service.
As part of the announcement, the ARF said it would apply to the Media Rating Council to accredit the service in its “second year of execution.”
The move further blurs the lines of the ad industry’s media research authorities and its suppliers, indicating how much Madison Avenue has changed from its “media neutral” roots.
The ARF was originally founded by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in 1936 as a nonprofit focused on improving the burgeoning science of advertising research.
Over the past couple of decades, the ARF has become more dependent on research suppliers as a source of revenues, and many vendors -- especially big digital platforms and research providers -- are now on its board of trustees.
The MRC was founded in the 1960s as a neutral self-regulatory media ratings watchdog following Congressional hearings about questionable practices in the media research industry. It conducts independent audits of media measurement services and grants them accreditation when it meets its minimum standards.
In recent years, some of those services were not syndicated measurement services per se, but proprietary measurement systems created by digital platforms such as Facebook and Google to measure their own inventory. It does not appear that the MRC has ever audited or accredited a measurement service from another ad industry association.
In today’s announcement, the ARF said it was teaming with 605, Experian, Innovid, Neustar, The NPD Group, Verizon and VideoAmp to conduct an online survey and live interviews of a national sample of 10,000 respondents, “to assess personal and household sharing and usage of devices and digital media and ecommerce accounts.”
The ARF said the research will be conducted by The University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC) and that it will continue to be conducted “as least annually.”
While it never explicitly states any plans to offer it as an industry measurement service, the ARF said it and the seven vendors sponsoring the research would apply to MRC to accredit it in its second year.
“The sponsors of the project represent a diverse cross-section of the industry,” the ARF noted in its statement, adding that each of the sponsoring companies contributed “experts to the technical advisory committee that oversees the study.”
The announcement does not indicate whether any ad industry representatives such as advertisers or agencies will be explicitly involved in it.
And while the MRC has never accredited a service from a trade association previously, it is known to have been talking with out-of-home measurement association GeoPath (formerly the Traffic Audit Bureau) about auditing and accrediting its process.
But unlike the ARF project, GeoPath operates as a tripartite JIC, or joint industry committee, in which all sides of the industry -- advertisers, agencies and media suppliers -- are on the board and have a say.