Media: Behind the hype - MindShare digs deep for timely consumer insight

MindShare's new research tool will link time and place to mood.

At a time when advertisers are continually hearing that advertising effectiveness measurement is neglected, media agencies are under increasing pressure to deliver the goods.

MindShare's response to the problem has been to create MindSet, a research programme that it hopes will give the agency the strategic edge over its rivals while providing an insight into consumer behaviour. Dominic Proctor, MindShare Worldwide's chief executive, hails the research tool as "a fantastic breakthrough in the neutral planning debate".

It's a bold claim, but will it stand up to scrutiny?

MindSet operates on a "pull" rather than "push" procedure. It dispenses with the familiar focus-group scenario, in which members of the public sit in a room, being fed marketing though various forms of media and then answering question about what they have seen.

Instead, for MindSet, 20,000 participants across the world will be prompted every hour, over a period of two days, by a PDA, to answer "real-time" questions about the media they encounter, from TV to direct marketing to transport marketing and beer mats.

Panel members will first enter their location, and then describe their mood at time of asking.

MindShare believes it is essential to establish mood, because it will allow the agency to assess the impact of environment on frame of mind and thereby improve its understanding of the impact of marketing messages.

Some in the industry doubt the value of the research. They claim that two days is not enough time to allow for the change in behaviour that occurs when people must incorporate a new piece of equipment into their lives.

However, Mike Mernagh, the director of consumer insight at MediaCom, believes the concept is a worthy one. "It is a very positive idea. We have to do something to get away from being so reliant on syndicated research, while recognising that a lot of clients are looking for something more mobile and immediate."

MindShare claims MindSet will, in particular, help to change the way the agency is able to assess the effectiveness of more marginal activity - such as end-of-aisle placements, display shelves and ceiling posters in supermarkets.

Various forms of cross-media research already exist - the IPA is the latest organisation attempting to develop its own research tool. But Nigel Foote, the group strategy director of Starcom Group, believes the critical difference with MindSet is its global reach.

He says: "I don't think it will answer the question of how advertising engages with the consumer. Although there are some questions in there as to the consumer's state of mind, it is still planning by numbers. It is a media mea-sure that is separate from effectiveness and the ultimate issue that clients want to know the answer to - is that solution right for my brand?"

MindSet seems to be a move in the right direction, especially with its global reach, but might just fall short of providing detailed answers for advertisers.

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