Media: Double Standards - The brands getting into the heads of consumers

With media owners setting up their own insight departments to gain a better understanding of audiences, we meet the heads of two such teams.

CLAIRE MYERSCOUGH - business intelligence director, News International Commercial

- Why did your company create your role?

News International's commercial division was restructured last year to provide a more focused and effective service to our customers. Business intelligence is a key part of this. As a world-class media company, we are committed to generating valuable and pioneering insights for the benefit of our brands and our customers. Also, as a department, we are actively involved with industry bodies and are responsible for the market positioning of our products - The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun, News of the World, thelondonpaper - and their respective websites.

- How much of your role is working directly with clients?

We work directly with clients on specific research projects relating to campaign and advertising effectiveness and also provide insights into specific advertising categories on purchasing behaviour, trends etc. Our reader panel comprises more than 20,000 individuals, the most robust in our industry, and thus we are able to drill down in considerable depth for consumer and category information.

- Does your offering potentially conflict with agency/advertiser relationships?

If that were the case, it would be counterproductive. We work proactively with agency insight teams to help bring more accountability to our brands and to the medium. Our department produces an informative newsletter which stimulates a collaborative relationship. It is an important aspect of our remit to get close to our customers and articulate our value.

- How much does your role contribute to the delivery of effective cross-media solutions?

The business intelligence team provide the insights that lead to creative ideas and liaise with client and agency teams to agree how the campaign is to be measured. We are currently working on a research initiative that will demonstrate the overarching benefits of using media brands on a multiplatform basis.

- How does insight help achieve return on investment for clients?

Clients use different measures for ROI and we are keen to embrace them in any way we can. With huge investment in our own brand research, we are well placed to understand our consumers and marry this up with client customer data to ensure the most effective targeting and communications are delivered. We will shortly be launching our Consumer Eye research, which offers a barometer on issues that are affecting our audiences during the economic downturn such as how their spending patterns are changing and tracking this for changes.

- How much demand for your services is there in the current climate?

The scale and quality of our audiences is widely known; however, as marketing budgets are under pressure, proving value and being accountable is key in securing budget. Insight is the springboard for creativity and this leads to innovation and better results. Our focus is less now about competing for share of newspaper spend, the real opportunity is taking a bigger slice of the overall marketing budget through fresh thinking and new initiatives.

- How do you relax outside of work?

The great outdoors and a good read, especially the new Saturday Times.

AGOSTINO DI FALCO - director of insight and planning, Viacom Brand Solutions

- Why did your company create your role?

At Viacom Brand Solutions, we have a working mantra - Insight: Ideas: Partnership. We believe that stronger insight leads to greater ideas and longer-lasting partnerships with agencies and clients. It's a philosophy that's been in place in the four years I've been at VBS. I think when you represent iconic brands such as MTV, Paramount Comedy and Nickelodeon, who engage young yet transient audiences, you really need to work harder to maintain an up-to-date perspective on their behaviour. Our investment in insight per se reflects this need.

- How much of your role is working directly with clients?

Unless there's no agency involved, we don't have a particular agenda to work directly with clients, although there is a lot of contact with them. Often, we work collaboratively with agencies to develop a proposal and take it jointly to the client. We're very good at bringing our diverse target audiences to life and often carry out immersion days for agencies and clients to hear about and literally spend time with our viewers.

- Does your offering potentially conflict with agency/advertiser relationships?

No. We're looking to add value, not replace service. This can come in lots of ways - generating campaign ideas, running immersion days, initiating bespoke research studies etc. I think the market appreciates our approach to insight. We invest in bespoke studies to better understand issues and to help us develop points of view. We then share our findings (and our views) with our partner agencies and clients.

- How much does your role contribute to the delivery of effective cross-media solutions?

Considerably. The insight and planning team is there to stimulate ideas across the whole of our business - encompassing TV, online, mobile and additionally through our work within the RSVP alliance with Global and IPC. Not only do we provide stimulus for idea generation but we also carry campaign effectiveness studies, particularly for those bespoke campaigns specially designed to sit within our content environment.

- How does insight help achieve return on investment for clients?

In general terms, how can you run a profitable business without a clear understanding of all the factors that influence success? Therefore, given that effective insight is the key that unlocks issues, putting it at the heart of what you do becomes imperative. Being involved in insight teams is extremely consultative. You listen and then you (hopefully) provide simple truths about the matter in question (target audience, marketplace, competitive context or whatever). Ultimately, I don't think we can consider our job done unless we've pointed people in the direction of a differentiated solution.

- How much demand for your services is there in the current climate?

It's as strong as ever. The same questions arise whether you're in the midst of a boom or a recession.

- How do you relax outside of work?

Aside from the numerous activities undertaken with the kids, I find the best chill-out zone to be the lounge ... with telly included.

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