Media: All about ... IPA TouchPoints

The IPA's planning tool is about to enter its second phase.

Last week, the IPA held an event to update the industry on the progress of TouchPoints, its consumer planning tool. It was held in the plush Mayfair surrounds of the Royal Aeronautical Society. A deliberate choice, perhaps, in a bid to convince doubters that TouchPoints, after a turbulent start, has taken off?

TouchPoints is a little over a year-old now, and is about to enter its second stage, with the IPA providing details of TouchPoints 2, a new survey, which will be available to its sponsors in early 2008. The original survey, which seeks to provide a snapshot of consumer behaviour via a PDA diary completed by participants, was commissioned not to replace existing industry and media specific data, but as a response to media convergence and changing media consumption habits.

As Jim Marshall, the chairman of the IPA Media Futures Group, said at the event: "It was intended not as a measure of effectiveness or performance, but to offer insights into an integrated media landscape."

The doubters wondered if the survey could deliver this accurate picture given that participants were handed the onerous task of providing a detailed account (every half an hour over a one-week period) of their movements and media consumption (both in and out of home). They also questioned the need for TouchPoints, given the existence of extensive (and expensive) media owner research, such as the cross-media Media DNA study, and agency initiatives such as MindShare's MindSet research, which also used PDAs to shine a light on consumer behaviour and moods throughout the day.

However, now TouchPoints is moving towards its second wave, it seems it is at least still airborne.

1. TouchPoints launched in spring 2006 as an agency-led initiative designed to provide a view of a week in consumers' lives. It involved a 5,010-strong national panel completing a 48-page questionnaire and then recording their activities every half an hour over a seven-day period. Its stated aim was to "support the communications industry in the integrated planning process - as solutions become more targ-eted and span several channels".

2. The survey was split into two stages. The first was called the TouchPoints Hub survey, which provided the core data of consumer use of media channels, as well as lifestyle data from the completed questionnaires. The second stage, released in autumn 2006, was an "integrated planning database", which fuses the industry currencies such as Barb, Rajar and Postar on to the main TouchPoints Hub Survey. This data is being re-released this month. TV data has been updated to make it possible to analyse more channels and radio data will be provided at individual station level rather than sales house level.

3. TouchPoints was delivered at an initial cost estimated at more than £1 million. It had more than 40 original founding partners, including 11 of the top media agencies and media owners.

4. Despite the release of the data, some agencies and media owners have questioned its impact, arguing it has yet to permeate throughout agencies beyond the research department. But agencies are working on ways to bring the data alive for their planners. Mark Greenstreet, the managing director of Carat Insight, says: "TouchPoints offers an innovative approach to collecting 'day in the life' data on a PDA." But, agencies stress that TouchPoints only really comes to life when fused with their own planning tools.

5. Advertisers, who are essentially funding TouchPoints via their agency suppliers, have expressed concerns over its application. Bob Wootton, the director of advertising and media affairs at ISBA, said at the IPA event: "There is a danger of a new 'TGI syndrome'. Wonderful as TouchPoints might be, its use is perceived as not being throughout the whole food chain. There is a suspicion that it's being used (by agency planners) to justify a course of action already decided upon, rather than inspiring it."

6. That said, the IPA is promising improvements to the new TouchPoints, with the potential for greater depth in the questionnaire and a stronger "second stage" integrated database. Speaking at the IPA event, Denise Turner, the head of insight at Media Planning Group, said of this integrated data: "The introduction of it has been slower than that of the hub survey." The IPA, which recently hired TNS to handle TouchPoints 2, hopes this will change as it evolves.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR ...

AGENCIES

- TouchPoints offers a planning tool that can be used at the start of the planning process to help with a client or a new-business brief.

- Agencies say that TouchPoints can add value to their own research, and argue it comes to life when fused with industry-standard currencies and their own planning tools.

- Some admit to finding it difficult to bring the data to life beyond the research department.

MEDIA OWNERS

- There is criticism that TouchPoints is too expensive and doesn't add a dimension beyond their own research projects.

- Those backing TouchPoints argue it has several uses. These were brought to life in a presentation by Stuart McDonald, the head of advertising insight at News International. First, as a tool to break down viewer/reader/listener habits by day-part. Second, as a marketing tool to offer an insight into the best ways and times to target an audience. Third, as a way for the commercial department to show advertisers their audience has a higher propensity to consume their product. And finally, as a tool to help them launch products.

ADVERTISERS

- TouchPoints is useful for advertisers seeking an understanding of campaigns targeting different audiences. Jeremy Found, the head of media at COI, says: "TouchPoints is a huge step forward. Existing media research is important, but the data supplied by each medium is in danger of being less relevant for strategic planning and only used for implementational planning and buying. TouchPoints can drive multimedia coverage and frequency."

- Advertisers suspect some flaws in the application of TouchPoints. Yet Bob Wootton at ISBA argues it is a potentially powerful tool in helping marketers "push back against the deployment of ad budgets" into other areas of their business.

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