Media Forum: Will IPA set media currency?

Can Touchpoints 2 become the single trading currency?

The IPA is clearly not bound by any notions of false modesty when it describes its Touchpoints 2 research as "the most ambitious piece of media research undertaken for a generation". The second wave of data (the first arrived in 2006), published last week, was derived from a survey of 5,400 individuals aged 15 and above and presents a picture of "a week in the life" of your average UK citizen.

According to the IPA Media Futures Group chairman, Jim Marshall, the research "provides a comprehensive breakdown of people's media consumption and then marries this up with the way they live their lives - their work, leisure, shopping and even their moods during the day".

It's the sort of project that used to be referred to as the holy grail - penetrating insight into daily consumer behaviour linked to a single-source of data covering consumption across all the major media. Marry this to econometric analysis, "just-in-time" manufacturing software and the very latest in warehousing and inventory management systems, and we can all pretty much have the day off.

Marshall has said Touchpoints 2 doesn't undermine trading currencies established by joint industry committees in each of the major media sectors, the likes of Barb, the National Readership Survey and Rajar. Not yet, at any rate, because last week Marshall also went on to speculate that Touchpoints 2 could become the basis of a single source trading currency across the entire media sector.

A radical proposition, and one that would have far-reaching consequences. Is he right? Not really, Bob Wootton, the director of media and advertising at ISBA, asserts, but that's not to undermine the achievement that is Touchpoints.

He says: "Historically, the different research bodies - you could call them silos - have grown up to reflect the unique nature of the media they cover and, in the past, media ownership has been pretty segregated. That's been changing in recent years and we've seen convergence, not just in ownership, but, through digital technologies, in the characteristics of the various media themselves. So you can see why people might argue that we now topple the silos into one another. Unfortunately, media owners tend to see those silos as safe havens."

That's not exactly how Tom George, Mediaedge:cia's chief executive, sees things, but he admits he's slightly biased, given that he sits on the IPA Media Futures committee. He says: "This is an incredibly conservative industry, but every pitch you do these days centres on how complex the communications landscape is, and how you go about devising an integrated approach to it all."

Simon Lent, ITV's trading director, says it's an interesting proposition, but he'd have to look at what the Touchpoints' latest output has to offer in more depth. He agrees, though, that any new insight into the behaviour of audiences will be invaluable. He adds: "The latest findings make very interesting reading, digging far deeper than any previous survey into the cross-platform media consumption habits of our viewers. Touchpoints 2, combined with other trading currencies like Barb, Rajar and Postar could really deliver results."

And Will Collin, the Naked founder, has an interesting perspective. Naked doesn't trade in the media market, but clearly its strategic insights can't be divorced from trading realities. He points out that existing research allows strategists to build penetrating insights into consumer behaviour patterns.

But he admits that being able to make cost and value comparisons between various media would be handy. "It would be a bit like creating the euro zone. There would be media that would effectively feel they were going in at the wrong rate so they would probably end up having to rubbish the methodology. It's true that a single currency would make life that bit easier from a planning perspective, but the insight as regards media consumption patterns already exists," he says.

NO - Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising, ISBA

"Touchpoints can only be seen as a step along the way. It's an important step, but the transition will be lengthy. Touchpoints allows the different silos to touch but it can't be a currency in itself."

YES - Tom George, chief executive, Mediaedge:cia

"The strength of Touchpoints 2 is its ability to provide a rich seam of information. We have to embrace anything that can give us greater insight - so I believe Touchpoints can be taken to another level."

MAYBE - Simon Lent, trading director, ITV

"Any robust information that gives us greater insight into how our viewers consume media is invaluable. It's something we can share with clients, giving them a clearer picture of how we deliver more highly targeted campaigns across all our platforms."

MAYBE - Will Collin, founder, Naked

"Yes, it would be convenient to have a universal currency, but it would be like the move to the euro - some countries found it painful. It's handy for tourists, obviously, but there will always be winners and losers. So I'm not sure it would happen."

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