ASIA: WHAT MATTERS IN MEDIA RESEARCH - Get to grips with the main issues with this ten-point market guide by Tim Foley of OMD Asia

To explode a popular myth, media planning in post-crash Asia is not conducted using a low-cost mix of Feng Shui and crystal balls. The reality is that, following the region’s economic meltdown and subsequent tightening of belts, the focus on accountability and, therefore, research, has increased, resulting in a far more sophisticated approach to media.

To explode a popular myth, media planning in post-crash Asia is not

conducted using a low-cost mix of Feng Shui and crystal balls. The

reality is that, following the region’s economic meltdown and subsequent

tightening of belts, the focus on accountability and, therefore,

research, has increased, resulting in a far more sophisticated approach

to media.

Here we review ten research trends that are sharpening up knowledge of

the world’s most populous region.

Client involvement

Clients in Asia are starting to get much more involved in the 80 per

cent of their advertising budgets that go into media. And research is

the mechanism that they are focusing on. More advertisers are employing

media professionals and are demanding a focus on tools that can be

referenced locally and implemented to deal with their needs.

Fast forward in China

Five years ago, media research in China consisted of a sprinkling of

low-quality services aimed at discovering if the local station had

actually aired any of a client’s spots. A lot has happened since then

and, by the end of the year, China will have close to 4,000

Peoplemeters, three readership surveys with a sample of 150,000, and

three ad-monitoring services supplying data on more than 250 TV


AC Nielsen, MMS, Ipsos-RSL and Taylor Nelson-Sofres are all now

established in China and both Ipsos and TN-Sofres have separate

relationships with CVSC, a major Chinese research company. Such

affiliations are expected to combine the benefits of relationships with

the Chinese, with Western technical expertise. The need for technical

knowledge is clear. However, given that media owners still show little

interest in paying for this research, you can continue to expect

everyone to lose money.

Japan discovers quality techniques

No-one who has had exposure to the marvels of Japanese product

innovation can be prepared for the shock of discovering just how much

work needs to be done to bring media research in Japan up to the level

that advertisers in the world’s second-largest economy deserve. But 1999

is the year when things will start to change. Currently, Peoplemeters

cover only Tokyo, TV advertising monitoring spans three cities, and the

country’s one readership survey is conducted once a year, using an

inadequate diary technique.

Expect to see changes, as the arrival of OMD and MindShare heralds a

greater focus on media and an upgrade of these services.

Print media becomes accountable

For the past 20 years, the key survey measuring readership for regional

print titles in Asia was conducted every three years. The inadequacy of

this has been shown up in the recent times of economic change. The 1997

Rolex owner, measured in the ATMS survey currently still in use, has

probably pawned his watch, and the ten-trips-per-year business flyer is

now using a bus. The realisation of this is pushing all survey providers

to deliver more frequently. The ATMS and ABRS surveys now appear every

two years, and PAX is an annual measure.

The Peoplemeter

Peoplemeters, which measure TV audiences, are widely established across

most markets in Asia, with the exceptions of Japan and IndoChina. The

challenges remaining for meter suppliers are to cover the huge rural

areas currently unmetered and to provide a measure for satellite and

cable channels.

To paraphrase Rupert Murdoch: ’Peoplemeters represent an unambiguous

threat to wildly exaggerating media owners everywhere.’ Channels are

finally facing up to the fact that without ratings you can never move

beyond niche budgets, and 1999 should see cable and satellite channels

properly monitored in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the major markets

of China.

Return on investment

Increasingly, ’ROI’ is the buzzword in Asia. The growth of interest in

ROI can be ascribed to margin-hungry marketers asking themselves, for

the first time, how much they really need to spend in order to

communicate effectively.

In Asia’s low cost-per-thousand markets, spend levels used to be driven

by share of voice, and frequency levels rose to great heights. Shampoo

users were courted by ’1,000 ratings a month’ by all major brands. Media

specialists now offer tools measuring the effect of those exposures, to

see if there is a guideline that can take us beyond share of voice.

For example, MindShare has response-modelling techniques, supported by

their Zeus software. APLintas has PAD Modelling, while OMD is using the

European TMP Media Observer technique.

Media specialists fill the knowledge gaps

Major groups like WPP and Omnicom have learned a lesson from the growth

of media independents in Europe and have moved fast to establish media

brands. Recognition of the importance of owning the media high ground in

Asia means that, even in the midst of the region’s economic problems,

this is something of a golden age for media research in Asia, with many

of the old unknowns being tackled and explained.

The influx of software

An increasingly liberalised market for software means media planners now

have to take classes in computing, and bewildered clients are looking up

names like Zeus and Merlin, having emerged from yet another demo. Shrewd

advertisers check not only that agencies have the brochures and

PowerPoint demos for a piece of software, but also that the agency

really knows how to use it.


A sign of the increased focus on media measurement in Asia has been the

trend for hiring media research directors for the region. Zenith did

this first in 1995. Now APLintas, Carat, Leo Burnett, MindShare and OMD

have professional regional staff. Increasingly, these people are

developing original research for Asia, rather than importing techniques

developed for other markets.

Looking at the big picture

A major focus in past years has been the development, or promotion, of

tools to aid the micro elements of media planning. The emphasis has now

switched to the development of macro tools that position media activity

in the context of marketing and sales goals.

TV optimisers and brand allocation systems deliver greater precision in

planning, but do not address many of the real concerns of advertisers,

who frequently view the allocation of budgets across dayparts as an

internal issue for media people.

This focus puts media and understanding media through research firmly at

the centre of the communication process.

Tim Foley is regional research director for OMD, having joined the

company from AC Nielsen where he ran the Hong Kong and China media

business. He has lived in Hong Kong for seven years.


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