Future media research will only be valid if advertisers invest in
quality work and media owners find out what the industry really
requires, Francis Goodwin says
We all believe - and have been brought up to believe - that media
research, as a concept, is a good thing.
Media owners regard it as essential for demonstrating the validity of
their products and the audiences they attract, while advertisers and
agencies need it as a trading currency for negotiation purposes and to
get a tangible idea of what they are getting for their money.
But, as the issues raised at the recent media conference of the
Incorporated Society of British Advertisers demonstrate, there is a
danger that the classic down-the-line form of media research is becoming
It’s clear that measuring niche audiences, whether on cable channels,
radio stations, or any of the smaller fragmenting media, is becoming a
But rather than splintering media research into ever smaller niche
surveys, we should start to look at the issue in a more rounded manner.
With all the main media fragmenting and the upsurge of new technologies
providing both competition for the consumer’s time and attention and
also starting to change the way they consume media, medium by medium
research is becoming less useful and increasingly expensive at a
planning level for all parties in terms of the returns it provides.
Media owners in the TV market are starting to realise this trend, hence
recent initiatives by Carlton to focus some research activity on older
viewers and the funding by Channel 4 of a new Barb panel classification
of light viewers.
One of the problems is that all the media are organised horizontally and
so there is no forum for general discussion about a commonality of
It’s time for media owners to prove that they are marketing-led by
seriously asking what advertisers require and for advertisers to get off
the fence and take steps to invest in the kind of research that will
help them meet their objectives.
There should be a much greater convergence of interest between media
owners and advertisers. The problem is the historical structures and in-
fighting that have evolved over the years. If we were starting with a
blank sheet of paper we would do things very differently.
Currently, advertisers are demanding more from the individual media and
media owners, to produce what amounts to a collection of fragmented and
unco-ordinated surveys. For once, we need to investigate people as
rounded individuals and not just in their role as ‘TV viewers’ or
‘women’s magazine readers’.
I’m not against niche surveys in themselves. They provide valuable
information and insights, particularly when it comes to a better
understanding of increasingly elusive and marketing-literate audiences.
But I feel we’re in danger of losing sight of the big picture.
It’s time all of us- very possibly led by ISBA - look at the real
requirements of advertisers to see how the media as a whole can match
For example, in what is increasingly becoming a mixed media universe, we
all need to know how our audiences consume different media and how they
balance them against each other.
With the millennium approaching, it’s time to set up the first ever all-
media single-source survey, co-funded by the media owners and
advertisers, to complement rather than replace the current research
This would be an in-depth survey of many thousands of people looking at
how they consume all types of media. Once established, it could evolve
on a rolling basis, taking in new media as they appear, and so become a
long-term valuable planning resource that would enable media research to
work better for all parties in the market.
Francis Goodwin is the managing director of Maiden Roadside