MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Researchers must tell us what makes fickle viewers tick

The job of writing about media companies is not always a happy one.

The job of writing about media companies is not always a happy


While colleagues covering creative agencies get to spend their days

watching colourful - and, hopefully, entertaining - showreels, fighting

off armfuls of flowers or crates of champagne from eager PRs and

lunching at the Ivy, we media journalists are left struggling with the

latest consignment of dry media agency missives claiming ground-breaking

research guaranteed to give said agency a secret weapon in the media

planning and buying war.

Some agency somewhere is no doubt even now working on an expensive piece

of research revealing that young people use the Internet and like music

magazines and that housewives with kids watch the Cartoon Network but

really enjoy Coronation Street.

Their findings will soon thud on to my desk along with a raft of eerily

similar studies, the like of which are best described as blindingly


I’ll flick through, just to make sure there’s really nothing

earth-shattering and, eventually, they’ll be filed in Campaign’s library

where they’ll nestle alongside the same report, written by a different

media agency (but perhaps by the same people) years ago.

At a stroke, many agencies undermine their valiant attempts at market

positioning by backing up their business philosophies with a bland mix

of cliches and hot air masquerading as sound and insightful media

thinking. Most media agencies you care to name have been guilty of it in

recent years, and those that haven’t are probably chastising themselves

for not getting their act together.

It’s hard to tell whether these reports ever change the way the

commissioning agency actually performs on its clients’ business, but I

suspect that most of them end up as new-business tools, PR vehicles and

perhaps an excuse to charge additional fees to existing clients.

Now Western International Media’s already scored well on the PR front

with the launch of its Futurescope research, and it could certainly do

with a leg-up on the new-business front. But where Futurescope is ahead

of the pack is in trying to predict media habits of the future.

Futurescope challenges some of the received wisdom about the digital age

and raises rather worrying issues about the way consumers will avoid

exposure to advertising. Seemingly, almost a third of the population

always avoids advertising (for cable and satellite, the figure is more

than 40 per cent) and it’s growing.

This research is guaranteed to get you thinking and to get the better

agancies acting - and it should certainly give commercial broadcasters

forecasting a digital nirvana something to think about. Futurescope’s

message for advertisers is clear: TV ads in the future need to be more

distinctive, relevant and involving.

Faced with Futurescope’s findings, the message for the media industry is

equally clear: media research must be more distinctive, relevant and


Mills on Business, p25.