OPINION: Advertisers deserve the big picture not selective views

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

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


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