Feature

All About ... Joint media research

Media owners are joining forces to gather new insights.

Media owners love to trumpet the powers of their own territory and usually have enough flipcharts and graphs to pummel the hardiest advertiser into submission.

Yet, as consumers hop from one medium to the next, often consuming them simultaneously, planners are thinking more about how different media feed off and into each other, as opposed to analysing the insights from each in isolation.

This explains the growth in joint media research initiatives. The latest duo to link hands in the quest for knowledge are Rajar and Barb, who last week announced a new research project in London to test electronic audience meters.

Alan James, the chief executive of the Outdoor Advertising Association, which has jumped into bed with the Radio Advertising Bureau, says: "At last there is a move afoot to look at media consumption in a more holistic light. Of course we need to know how each medium performs, but with multimedia schedules now the norm, clients and media agencies need to have a better understanding of how different media interact and work with and alongside each other."

Not that the joint work by Barb and Rajar is particularly collaborative.

The two parties are using the trial to pursue their own agendas.

And Sue Elms, the managing director of Carat Insight, says collaborations between industry bodies are good, but often fall short. "These joint initiatives offer new insights versus siloed media owner studies and move us from one dimensional viewpoint to two, so it's useful. But true evaluation of effectiveness has to measure the multi-dimensional brand and media experience that the consumer has. That's the Holy Grail."

1. The joint venture between Rajar and Barb involves a two-year trial of an electronic measurement system within the M25. The "electronic measurement panel" is for research and development purposes only and the data will not be used in airtime trading or offered for external use. While the comparison of these "audiometers" versus diaries will provide Rajar with good information about volatility, it's not so easy to see what Barb gets out of it. In fact, Barb is using the trial to see how it can take a more mobile approach to audience measurement. As TV goes on-demand and mobile, and also as more people watch TV out of home, Barb wants to see how a more flexible solution can enhance its existing hardwired meter technique.

2. IPA Touchpoints aims to reflect the multiple media impacts on a typical consumer in their day-to-day lives. The idea is to prove how different media work together, helping planners track the media people consume, how different media compete for their attention, and how different types of media fit into people's changing lifestyles. The aim of Touchpoints is to become a single source integrated planning tool, forming a "hub" database that can be plugged into existing research tools such as Postar, Barb and the National Readership Survey. To compile the research, 5,000 people were given a PDA and answered questions every half-hour over a week. They also filled in a paper questionnaire covering their general media choices and likes and dislikes. The data reveals detailed nuggets - such as 17 per cent of 15- to 24-year- olds consume more than one type of media at any one time, compared with 11 per cent of adults.

3. Some in the media community argue that outdoor and radio make an effective and complementary combination. Both are habitually consumed on the move and generate high levels of frequency. To explore this further, the OAA and the RAB jointly funded research that tapped into neuroscience to explore how the two media work together. Apparently, radio and outdoor "hardwire" brand associations into the brain more quickly than other media. The trade bodies even have a Heineken-esque catchphrase to stress the point: "Radio and outdoor stimulate the mindsets other media cannot reach."

4. With almost 50 per cent of people listening to the radio while online, the growth in online audience is boosting radio more than any other media. As such, it is obvious to explore the complementary aspects of the two, undertaken in a joint project between the RAB and IAB. It found 57 per cent of people claim to have checked things on the internet after hearing about them on the radio and 39 per cent said advertising had prompted them to search for something on the internet.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR ...

ADVERTISERS

- Carat's Sue Elms says the potential prize of joint research is "higher research return on investment through using respondent samples more effectively".

Pointing out that it's getting harder and more expensive for researchers to get good representative samples, the proliferation of joint projects will hopefully deliver better and more robust results - as long as media owners are honest with the findings.

- However, some advertisers question the value of joint initiatives because they can be compromised by vested interests. As Sue Moseley, the managing director of Initiative Futures Worldwide, says: "A lot of joint projects are based on claimed behaviour, not observed, so there's a risk you just end up seeing the edited highlights." Moseley adds that this is why the lack of external access to the Barb/Rajar findings is frustrating. "It's hard data, so it's incredibly valuable," she says.

MEDIA OWNERS' SHARE OF BUDGETS

- Don Thomson, the commercial and operations director with Chrysalis Radio, says cross-media research will help media owners better arm themselves in their battle for a slice of ad revenue. "Ultimately, the goal is still to grab a share of the ad revenue, but to do that media owners need to demonstrate their understanding of how their medium interacts with other media."