SPOTLIGHT ON: AUDIENCE RESEARCH - Will BARB be able to cope with the challenges of digital TV? Audience research could be difficult to gather as TV grows, Alasdair Reid says

We all know basic television audience research is going to be more difficult to compile in the digital age. More channels will mean that the total television audience will be spread thinner - sometimes to the point of transparency. Keeping tabs on it will require more sophisticated techniques.

We all know basic television audience research is going to be more

difficult to compile in the digital age. More channels will mean that

the total television audience will be spread thinner - sometimes to the

point of transparency. Keeping tabs on it will require more

sophisticated techniques.



That’s what the BARB funding row over the summer was all about. The

existing set-up is already creaking - and this is with analogue

multi-channel choice currently available in only a quarter of UK homes.

When digital takes hold, how on earth is the system going to cope?



Well, the short answer is that it isn’t. That was the message of a paper

published last week by Sue Read, the marketing and research director of

Laser Sales, and Hugh Johnson, head of research at Channel 4. BARB

research - the industry standard trading currency - won’t be able to

keep up (Campaign, 28 November).



Some channels will have to make do with less audience data and the

result will be a move away from a numbers-based trading system.

Expanding the meter panel won’t be a solution. It will prove too costly

- and, for the smaller stations, an expanded panel would still be unable

to provide minute-by-minute ratings.



Smaller channels and the dayparts on larger channels may find that their

data is aggregated to provide more broad-based information, such as

average reach and total campaign TVRs.



Are Read and Johnson right and, if so, should we be worried?



Of course, some agencies are already working in a post-industry-research

world - for example, Michaelides & Bednash. It takes the target market

for a particular brand and builds a detailed understanding of that

group’s media consumption by using focus groups. In effect, each brand

it works for creates its own proprietary databank - both qualitative and

quantitative research.



George Michaelides, a managing partner of Michaelides & Bednash, has

always mistrusted industry research, saying: ’It is produced by the

media owners and the methodologies they choose vastly inflate the

figures. More channels will produce a huge change in the way the market

works. At present, what buyers do is pretty crude haggling and

horsetrading.’



Of course, Michaelides & Bednash is a strategic media planning

consultancy and isn’t involved in any of the messy stuff at the coal

face of TV buying.



Surely the big TV buying departments will take a different view? Isn’t

the reality that industry benchmarks matter?



Not necessarily. David Cuff, the broadcast director of Initiative Media,

argues that the market will trade with whatever currency it has to hand.

He adds: ’Our network across the Continent already buys without

minute-by-minute ratings data.



If industry ratings data reporting is simplified it will merely place

more importance on proprietary research.’



But Mike Wood, the media director of J. Walter Thompson, says it’s

madness to contemplate a world dominated by client-owned proprietary

media research.



’Research costs a lot of money. People will not be able to replicate

BARB with proprietary data.’



Wood says compromise is essential. ’There has to be a solid core of

industry data and I agree that in the run-up to the award of the next

BARB contract there will have to be some trade-offs. We need a single

integrated source of data that gives robust measurements and if that

means we can’t get minute-by-minute data on digital channels, then so be

it. We have to recognise that research costs are already high and we

might not be able to get all the detail we want. But I don’t see any

problem in working with aggregated ratings across the day or across the

week.’



Topics

Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).