World: Media Analysis - MBV shows up cumbersome quantitative reports

A new arrival highlights the shortcomings of European surveys, Lucy Aitken argues. Another month, another pan-European research survey. But before the cynicism starts to cement, it's worth bearing in mind that Media Brand Values (MBV) is different. No, really.

MBV, which launched its first set of results on 15 October, provides the first qualitative data for global media brands across Europe.

Belinda Barker, the managing director of BSB Media, which co-produced MBV with Objective Research, explains: "MBV won't tell you how many eyeballs see a certain ad, but it does tell you what mindset someone is in when they consume a particular medium."

The international media industry is welcoming MBV's arrival, not least because it was developed through industry co-operation: advertisers, agencies and media owners have all been involved.

There's a growing demand for a similar joint approach to the industry's quantitative reports. Certainly since the turn of the millennium, there have been ever-louder complaints about too many reports flooding the market, none of which appear to satisfy agencies' needs. What's more, buying into all of them is a costly business: one media owner calculates the combined price tag to be $145,000.

Advertisers and agencies are currently served by four reports: Ipsos' European Business Readership Survey (EBRS) and Eur-ope series rub shoulders with Interview NSS's European Media Survey (EMS) and EMS Select.

The surveys do differ: EMS has a much bigger universe than Europe 2000, which focuses more on Europe's elite, though EMS Select, launched this year, occupies similar ground. EBRS concentrates on Europe's high-earning "C-suite". The "unique" selling points for all the reports appear to imply that the research companies have been working from the same fridge-magnet poetry set. "Elite", "affluent", "influential" and "senior" all put in regular appearances.

Many media agencies agree that four surveys is excessive. "In an ideal world, we'd like one survey to satisfy all our needs," Shelia Byfield, the director of consumer insight, worldwide at MindShare, says.

Byfield echoes a report prepared last year on behalf of the Media Research Working Party of the European Association of Communication Agencies. The report called for the establishment of a joint industry committee, which would include media owners.

The trouble with media owners, though, is that it's not unheard of for them to favour a particular survey because it's flattering to them. What's more, media owners tend to be these reports' main sponsors.

There are other issues. Nick Hiddleston, the international research director at Initiative, says the existing surveys focus far too much on the business audience. "The surveys don't provide us with information about a broader consumer such as an up-market fashion-conscious consumer. Not every pan-European advertising budget is spent targeting the business audience," he points out.

Such disenchantment has given rise to rumblings of revolution. Certain media owners are aligning themselves with particular reports. CNBC, for instance, is backing EMS. "There are too many reports and we only buy EMS. CNN, BBC World, CNBC and Eurosport all buy into EMS, so it's a good place to start," CNBC Europe's research director, Nick Mawditt, says.

CNN is also an EMS fan, particularly since the inclusion of EMS Select. Didier Mormesse, CNN's vice-president, research, EMEA, says: "The good thing about EMS is its ability to zoom in on a smaller universe with EMS Select. This provides the same information as the existing Europe series."

And despite this year's inclusion of TV data in the traditionally print-only EBRS survey, Mor-messe remains unimpressed, stating that there was too much of a "strong overlap with EMS and the Europe series".

Other criticisms of EBRS include its methodology: it's been going for 30 years and many accuse it of being stuck in the 70s.

Paul Maraviglia, the international managing director at BusinessWeek, says: "I question a universe set up more than 25 years ago. The structure of business has changed over that time."

Maraviglia is excited by the MBV launch, however, saying: "It will show us why someone in France who buys Les Echos also buys BusinessWeek or The Economist. For too long, we've been going along with quantitative data."

PAN-EUROPEAN SURVEYS: HOW DO THEY DIFFER?

Campaign asked all the research companies who supply pan-European research to provide a unique selling point for each survey

MBV - "MBV is a groundbreaking survey measuring how senior businesses and influential individuals in Europe value media." (BSB Media)

EMS - "The largest single-source survey of Europe's most affluent influentials, EMS collects detailed information on European readership and TV-viewing behaviour of the 40 million most affluent and influential Europeans." (Interview NSS)

EMS Select - "EMS Select focuses on the top segment of Europe's elite, the top 3 per cent." (Interview NSS)

Europe 2004 - "The media survey of decision-makers and leading consumers in Europe, it is the only pan-European survey to provide dedicated coverage of this audience." (Ipsos)

EBRS - "The media survey of Europe's business elite. It is unique among the pan-European surveys in focusing on C-suite and other senior executives at the region's largest and most important companies." (Ipsos)

PRINT AND TELEVISION: WHAT DOES THE C-SUITE THINK?

Print TV

Intl % Nat % Intl % Nat %

Is influential 37 27 23 13

Has too much low quality reporting 2 4 2 7

Is a must-watch 27 20 17 13

Helps me in my work 41 29 25 6

Helps me with my private investment 17 8 10 2

Is trustworthy 37 21 35 22

I watch/read when I am travelling 27 14 39 8

Source: MBV.

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