MEDIA SPOTLIGHT ON: EFFECTIVENESS RESEARCH - Why proving the efficiency of different media is a hard task. Would such comparisons benefit the minor media? Alasdair Reid investigates

Talk about econometric modelling and people’s eyes usually start to glaze over. Effectiveness research tends not to be the most gripping stuff in the world.

Talk about econometric modelling and people’s eyes usually start to

glaze over. Effectiveness research tends not to be the most gripping

stuff in the world.

But there are those who swear by it: this, in theory, is the ultimate in

accountability. A number of studies measure consumer behaviour and

attempt to link it with advertising activity. The main medium involved

is television. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, these studies show that TV

does indeed work. Buy some airtime and the shelves start to empty.

Last week, at the Radio Advertising Bureau’s annual conference, Winston

Fletcher, chairman of the Bozell Group, took the radio industry to task

for not doing enough in this area. As a minor medium, radio has to try

harder and should at least be matching television in proving its

effectiveness. The argument, he added, applies to other media too.

Outdoor, cinema and some sectors of the magazine market would all profit

from proving that they work (Campaign, last week).

And he went further: ideally, there should be comparative data across

the whole market. Clients and media planners should be able to compare

the effectiveness of pounds 1 spent on radio with the same on TV,

newspapers, or cinema. Then they’d be in a better position to apportion

their budgets across different media.

Sounds reasonable, but is it possible? This sort of thing doesn’t come

cheap. Andrew Ingram, the account planning director of the RAB, admits

it’s an ambitious vision. He comments: ’At the moment there’s a huge

amount of ignorance.

Ideally, we would like to come up with something that might tell us that

radio drives awareness a third as fast as TV. It’s never likely to be as

simple as that, but we need a starting point.’

Ingram argues it should be possible to build from modest beginnings - if

you generate enough useful case-study media on individual clients, you

can start to draw general conclusions.

But would it have the desired effect? Even if we assume that the numbers

would look good for minor media, would that help them attract more


Fiona Smedley, joint managing director of Universal McCann, thinks it

could. ’Revenue would flow into a medium that could prove its


The problem is it isn’t easy. Magazines have spent years struggling to

prove they’re as effective per pounds 1 spent as TV. They’ve produced

lots of case studies and research. But clients remain sceptical of their


’It’s complicated even within one medium - how do you measure the

effectiveness of daytime TV versus peak? A 48-sheet poster on Cromwell

Road versus the local high street? But we want to have some idea about

whether moving some budget out of TV and on to radio will dilute

effectiveness or improve it. These days the central issue is

effectiveness rather than coverage.’

Graham Bednash, managing partner of Michaelides & Bednash,


’The idea that you can create comparative data across media is


It harks back to the thinking of the 50s. It assumes limited media and

homogeneous consumers and that you can take simple measurements of

output and response. We’re now in a market that has started to go beyond

even demographics into far more sophisticated classification systems and

causal relationships are far more complicated.

’It’s the sort of thinking where you start with the medium then work

outwards to the brand and consumer. When this business gets things

wrong, it’s usually because it’s started from the wrong place. Our

thinking has always been that you must start with the brand, then think

of the consumer’s relationship with that brand - then think about