Media: Double Standards - 'I can't imagine a world without Barb metrics'

The man from Postar bemoans advertisers' apathy about audience research, but the Barb chief says cross-media measurement gets them fired up.

BJARNE THELIN - CHIEF EXECUTIVE, BARB

- Why should advertisers choose your medium?

I'm not sure it's appropriate for the industry measurement body to promote the medium, apart from pointing out the accountability that the Barb system brings to television, of course!

- How much can a healthy audience research system help grow a medium?

In the modern media world, credible metrics are demanded - more a bedrock than a driver. With television, it's difficult to imagine a world without Barb figures underpinning the bulk of transactions.

- What are your industry members most concerned about and what are you doing to alleviate their concerns?

The increased options for TV content, distribution and consumption present ongoing challenges for measurement. These drive the agenda for the future. We are in forward-thinking mode to ensure we can continue to deliver a relevant service.

- What change or development in your service do advertisers most frequently demand?

We've just undertaken a major consultation exercise, Future Into View, which has highlighted a number of areas for us to examine. These include the reporting of smaller channels, and new on-demand viewing opportunities. Of course, advertisers are one of the groups most interested in cross-media research.

- How has the fast pace of change in your industry affected your measurement techniques and what have you done to keep up?

Barb has added many developments in recent years to cope with digital broadcasting. The pace of change is currently dramatic and we don't expect it to slow down.

- What has been your research body's best innovation in recent years?

The addition of reporting of Sky+ homes has been the most keenly anticipated. Coupled with Vosdal (viewing on same day as live), which adds same-day playback into the overnight figures, Barb's time-shift reporting is world-leading.

- How closely do you work with research bodies from other media and is this at all useful?

I've met most of my counterparts, and there's some dialogue between various representatives, sharing learning and definitions to some degree. Barb has recently had some more active involvement with Rajar over portable meter developments.

- How much has cross-media research been over-hyped?

There's clear appetite for cross-media research from certain quarters, and their desire is fully understandable. However, clear-cut distinctions between media are softening, and the blur will increase, pushing towards cross-media measurement. It would need careful planning if we were to prevent meltdown.

- How did you come to work in audience research?

My time in TV sales at Carlton took me in all kinds of directions - virtually all of which relied on Barb data. The changing environment of the future of TV is a challenge for Barb that I felt would stretch me in new directions.

- What's the most stressful thing about your job?

The knowledge that the media industry depends on daily delivery of Barb figures for monitoring, trading and planning. It's a great responsibility to oversee a system that is so integral to the business.

- What are your main interests outside work?

I have a fantastic wife and two great kids. I'm a Boro fan (I hail from Middlesbrough) so that brings plenty of joy and anguish, and I'm a Christian, which is hugely important to all perspectives and dimensions in my life.

JAMES WHITMORE - MANAGING DIRECTOR, POSTAR

- Why should advertisers choose your medium?

The medium is unavoidable, bold and omnipresent. It is also underpinned by some excellent audience research.

- How much can a healthy audience research system help grow a medium?

I think it is absolutely essential, especially for a medium that is showing so much innovation and growth. Postar has to keep pace with this to underpin advertisers' faith in the investment they are making.

- What are your industry members most concerned about and what are you doing to alleviate their concerns?

Postar is highly engineered. It is the only audience measurement research that identifies not just who has an opportunity to see the medium but who actually looks at it. There is little dissent over this approach but we need to demonstrate that the additional complexity is warranted.

- What change or development in your service do advertisers most frequently demand?

I have yet to detect any interest from advertisers in audience research, let alone a desire for change. This is a real shame and something I hope will change. In contrast, the users of the data - media owners and poster specialists - are vociferous, with many suggestions.

- How has the fast pace of change in your industry affected your measurement techniques and what have you done to keep up?

It is reasonable to argue that in the past decade, the outdoor medium has seen more change than any of the other traditional media. The research must now contend with transport media, retail and digital screens. It's no secret that Postar has not kept step as well as it might.

- What has been your research body's best innovation in recent years?

Last month, we released the first tranche of data relating to the London Underground. Completion of the project to integrate the Tube into Postar will represent an innovation of great significance.

- How closely do you work with research bodies from other media and is this at all useful?

At the moment we do not work that closely. I believe that this is bound to change. We face many of the same challenges and there could well be efficiencies if we discuss how we might meet them.

- How much has cross-media research been over-hyped?

Like most media currencies, Postar looks at patronage to other media, albeit in fairly broad terms. What has changed recently is that a number of people have risen to the challenge of providing another, arguably more independent, point of view. This has to be interesting, and I welcome it.

- How did you come to work in audience research?

It was suggested to me that I might be interested. Coming from a planning background, I was acutely aware that what Postar has to offer is far in excess of the value that people currently derive from it.

- What's the most stressful thing about your job?

This question. I wasn't aware that it ought to be stressful. But then I have only been here for four months.

- What are your main interests outside work?

I am a voracious reader and a "mega-heavy" cinema-goer. I love walking. Occasionally, I go clubbing. When I have time, I watch cricket.

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