EUROPEAN MEDIA: The Research Conundrum

Should planners treat the pan-European media surveys as the cornerstone of their plans? OMD's Piotr Blazewicz and Oliver Reston provide the agency view, while three media owners discuss the highs and lows of each of the surveys.

"We have $500,000 to invest in pan-European print as an umbrella strategy to complement our regional brand campaign, targeting 25- to 45-year-old decision-makers with a high disposable income who are into technology and design. Get me a plan by Thursday." So says the European marketing manager of a well-known car manufacturer to the international arm of their media agency.

Faced with such a brief, where does pan-European research fit into the process of putting together a media plan, and how large a role does it play?

Put the above brief into any of the main pan-European research tools - EMS, Europe 2003, EBRS - and you will dredge up all the old print stalwarts, separated only by a few index points and not a lot else, barring the main factors of cost, circulation/readership, editorial and frequency, none of which requires a research tool to determine and evaluate.

Therefore, rather than be the crucial differentiating factor in media selection, research can sometimes confuse the issue. In contrast, the seemingly inconsequential difference of a few index points can provide the media planner with an argument for choosing one title over another. Whatever angle you approach it from, research results such as this can be judged to be useful in underlining the non-differentiation of some media in terms of audience segmentation. In the above case, then, research would be the finishing touch, although one that might make the media solution a credible sell.

Subscription to the above view poses questions: "Are the media agencies taking full advantage of the depth of consumer insight provided by the research tools, and are they seeking out the elusive determining/differentiating factors that will sway decisions beyond doubt?"

The answer to both is probably: "No." Why? Time constraints and lack of necessity to do so. Lack of necessity, because the typical planner already has a distinct and valid media selection, so all that's needed is a bit of top-line back-up data. As for time constraints, it is far easier to farm research runs out to media owners, most of whom have dedicated research teams who can turn data requests round far quicker. They're good and they're increasingly neutral and transparent.

When faced with the option of analysing reports on "the percentage of Austrian men who drive a Maserati, have a wife called Gertrude and read the Financial Times" or finishing that proposal for the world's first sonic hologrammed megasite on the Eiffel Tower, I know which one I'd choose.

However, while other agencies may stick to the above line of argument - where "time constraints" translate into three-hour lunches, and "lack of necessity" really means "I can't be arsed" - OMD holds true to the "seek and you shall find" ethic, and consistently finds that pan-European media research can make the difference between having a watertight plan or one that is full of holes.

Piotr Blazewicz is the international research manager and Oliver Reston is an international media executive at OMD

AVERAGE DAILY VIEWING: INTERNATIONAL CHANNELS

Channel Daily viewing1 Weekly reach2 Monthly reach2

02(000s) 01(000s) (000s) % (000s) %

Eurosport 3,478 4,022 2,854 27.4 4,086 39.3

Discovery Channel 1,716 1,777 1,745 16.8 2,500 24.0

CNN International 1,702 2,333 3,106 29.9 4,697 45.1

MTV Europe 1,626 2,158 2,206 21.2 3,107 29.9

Euronews 1,553 1,641 1,975 19.0 2,982 28.7

Sky News 1,498 1,642 - - - -

National Geographic 853 976 1,236 11.9 2,069 19.9

BBC World 655 673 1,577 15.2 2,732 26.3

Bloomberg TV 625 735 777 7.5 1,184 11.4

CNBC 479 535 1,029 9.9 1,851 17.8

Source:

1 EMS (Universe: 40 million) 2 Europe 2003 (Universe 10.4 million)

AVERAGE ISSUE READERSHIP: INTERNATIONAL TITLES

Title Readership1 Readership1 Av issue readership2

02 (000s) 01(000s) 03(000s) %

National Geographic 4,523 4,884 801 7.7

Reader's Digest 2,754 3,404 - -

Time 1,136 1,208 568 5.5

The Economist 879 772 474 4.6

Financial Times 787 798 689 6.6

Newsweek 629 654 335 3.2

Businessweek 323 334 223 2.1

IHT 130 145 166 1.6

USA Today 105 117 149 1.4

The Wall Street Journal 77 114 134 1.3

Source: 1EMS (Universe 40 million) 2Europe 2003 (Universe 10.4 million)

THE PAN-EUROPEAN VIEW/NEWS NETWORKS

DIDIER MORMESSE, vice-president of research for CNN in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

For anyone working in the international arena, understanding the diversity of the audience can be a huge challenge. International channels often have niche audiences where national television peoplemeter systems do not effectively represent viewing levels. This is due to the limited sample sizes of upscale adults on the national panels, and the complexities of making cross-country comparisons.

This need for information has really driven the role of pan-European media research, which has become a vital tool for anyone working across international media. CNN, for example, subscribes to both the EMS and Europe 2000 series of pan-European surveys, which provide greater depth of data and consistency across countries.

The two surveys allow the analysis of marketing data, media planning options and, more recently, psychographic cluster analysis. Additionally, EMS provides a vast amount of brand data and has the benefit of eight years of historical data from Interview-NSS.

Recent years have seen both surveys respond to market demands, thereby converging in terms of methodology and content. At CNN, we have found that this simplification of the available research is a key driver, as we need to provide easily digestible, straightforward and transparent research and analysis for both agencies and clients. The planned introduction of the "Select" universe by EMS should provide invaluable additional insight into the elite of their existing universe.

The current results provide detailed viewing by daypart, in-depth marketing data, the ability to plan across media and measure brand awareness and consumption.

But the addition of being able to focus on a broad audience or zoom in on an upscale target group - all within one study - would certainly be a positive step.

The European Association of Communications Agencies is due to report its findings of an audit of the two studies shortly, and it will be interesting to see their views on the development of international research.

Pan-European research has an important role to play, and if there is a means by which we can clarify the research process by bringing the strengths of the two studies under one roof, then so much the better.

THE INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE VIEW

MIKE JEANES, senior research manager, Time Inc

One of the greatest things about working in media research is submitting next year's proposed budgets with a wishlist longer than a five-year-old's letter to Santa. One of the worst things, however, is receiving a memo from the finance director informing you that Santa won't be coming this year, but if you're lucky there could be an old sock at the end of the bed with an orange in it.

Having said that, Christmas has come early for Time and Fortune this year, and we are privileged to have access to the three main surveys: EBRS (European Business Readership Survey), EMS and the Europe 2000 Series.

In the current climate, most media owners are restricted in the number of surveys they can buy and making the wrong decision could make an orange in an old sock seem appealing to a struggling advertising sales executive.

Considering the choices, EBRS (print only) already has unanimous sponsorship support from the pan-European print fraternity. It's the most established survey, and it's relatively cost effective. But for most media owners (both TV and print), the big question is whether to invest in EMS, or sign up to the Europe Series.

Each year, regular as clockwork, most pan-European media researchers ask: How much do the surveys cost now? How well do their publications/channels generally perform? Which surveys are media agencies using, and what's the competition buying?

About a year ago, Time, Fortune and CNN commissioned research among agency planners across the UK, France and Germany to determine their perceptions and usage of the three main surveys. The results suggested that each one had something different to offer, with the Europe Series universe "more relevant" than the broader EMS survey. Yet EMS scored most highly for the provision of in-depth marketing data.

While the agency view is important, some agencies argue that the current position and future direction of the pan-European media surveys is in the hands of the media owners - and not always in the hands of the researchers but those holding the purse strings.

Now more than ever, media owners are being forced to make tough choices and any shift from one survey to another is sure to apply financial pressure on the supplier that loses out.

The proposed launch of EMS Select in 2004 - a separate database representing the top 3 per cent of the European population (to compete with the Europe Series) - could not only address the objection raised by agencies of "less relevance" of the wider EMS universe, but may also be attractive to existing Europe 2000 Series buyers.

At the moment, the sponsorship picture seems to be polarised, with the majority of pan-European print media owners purchasing the Europe Series, and TV media owners sponsoring EMS.

It seems likely that 2004 and 2005 will be crucial for both surveys as the battle for share of sponsorship intensifies. But the message to (and challenge for) our valued research suppliers is that most pan-European media owners and agencies alike would prefer a single multimedia trading currency. That would be the best Christmas present of all.

THE PAN-EUROPEAN TV NETWORK VIEW

LINDA CHELLEY, research director, Discovery Networks Europe

First there was research. Now there's research into research. Nigel Jacklin of Objective Research has been commissioned by the European Association of Communication Agencies to undertake a review of two surveys with the ultimate intention of helping the industry answer two questions.

Which out of EMS or Europe 2003 is the better pan-regional recall survey into viewing and reading of TV and print? And do we really need both?

I wish him luck. As an experienced researcher in broadcasting, I am only too aware that he will have trouble pleasing all parties. If his review throws up no firm conclusion, the exercise could be deemed pointless.

If he does pick out one survey method as superior in broadcasting, say, he could upset broadcasters who prefer a particular system that, historically, has returned better figures for their channel.

Or he could do nothing and wait. Some would argue that the methodology for the two surveys is converging - for example, both use booster sampling and questions are increasingly similar - and that they may eventually be distinguishable mainly in terms of the size of the universe.

However, Nigel's view is that: "There is not enough money in the market to support both. The money could be spent to improve one survey."

Does the importance of recall surveys merit all this fuss? Both EMS and Europe 2003 can provide detailed data on specific demographics. That's fine if you want to track a very small group of high earners or if your audience watches TV in atypical venues such as hotel rooms. For Discovery too, EMS is a useful way of understanding viewers in a specific part of the world.

However, being able to clearly demonstrate audience delivery is more important for us in garnering adspend - and tracking that delivery, regionally and worldwide, is our chief concern. In this context, recall surveys are less useful. Also, if a clear idea of audience delivery is required, the value of recall survey data, which is often more about perceived usage than actual viewing, may, at the very least, be disputable.

By contrast, the value of peoplemeter data is hard to dispute. In fact, although the companies supplying it may be different, peoplemeter data is a recognised currency for advertising sales in every country in the world. But all this valuable data is of little use unless it is properly managed. Discovery and a number of other broadcasters already amalgamate peoplemeter data from around Europe to provide pre- and post-campaign analysis. Now the international research department at Discovery intends to go one stage further, amalgamating its peoplemeter data from all countries around the world into one analysis system, making this one tool available to all our regional offices, and enabling us to provide consistent, relevant information in a short time frame.

The result? Faster time to data - and faster time to advertisers.

So are these surveys still important? Absolutely. And comparing EMS with Europe 2003 may prove useful. However, we should not lose sight of the bigger picture. If there is a global market out there, why gaze at your navel?

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