Touchpoints: so far so good, now moreplease

If you're obsessive about advertising, you're probably already pretty familiar with Fallon's new Sony Bravia ad (page 18), even though it hasn't made its TV debut yet.

Its award-winning, mesmeric predecessor, "balls", was the ad of 2005. Even the punters liked it and in a relatively unique move the industry's darling actually shifted stock and Bravias sold out.

In fact, so well did Bravia transcend luvviedom and impact upon real life that if you log on to YouTube, there are 247 films about Bravia. Some of them are copies of the original ad, some piss-takes, most of them (ad or not) are tagged under "entertainment" - surely a creative's wet dream. Read the comments from the punters, too, and it's quickly apparent that media budgets can't buy this sort of impact and peer-group approval.

Anyway, the new Bravia ad has also been up there on YouTube for a couple of months now. Or at least some rather shaky but pretty impressive "making of" clips have. And at a rough guess, they've already been seen by 50,000 or so viewers. All before the official media launch.

Except that the pre-campaign campaign has been carefully orchestrated. Most of the word-of-mouth stuff, the YouTube postings, reflect genuine punter interest but Sony's agencies have also given it a gentle nudge. And then there's bravia-advert.com - an official digital shrine to "balls" and a teaser for "paint".

So even what seems like a big blockbuster TV campaign these days is, for smart clients, rarely simply that. The internet, experiential marketing, subversive PR: there are plenty of non-advertising ways of seeding interest in ads and making ad budgets work harder. The point is, commercials - or at least good ads that have the potential to capture the consumer's imagination - can have a life and force well beyond the physical ad itself.

All this is pretty relevant when it comes to measuring advertising impact. As consumers we don't consume TV ads, press ads, posters ... we inhale commercial messages from anywhere and everywhere. Our touchpoints with ads are more varied than ever, thanks in the main to the web, and we're much more integrated in our media (and advertising) consumption than our siloed media research systems allow. Ask the man on the street what he thinks of Sony, say, and his view is sure to have been influenced by what he's read, seen on TV, picked up from friends, taken out of ads and so on. So it's clear that the traditional research and measurement language of the advertising industry is increasingly clumsy when it comes to analysing the impact of campaigns.

Until now. Finally, planners now have a new industry standard tool that begins to graft some sense on to how different media actually work together. Step forward the IPA's Touchpoints planning tool, now officially up and running.

The cross-media research project claims to be the first standard tool that allows planners to track the media that people consume as part of their day-to-day lives and understand how they fit together. It has its limitations but it does help fill the void of digital-specific industry research: it's ridiculous that there is no standard digital currency, at least Touchpoints helps planners put digital into context.

So, so far so good. But Touchpoints is so far motoring on only one sweep of research. It's based on a diary/PDA system, with respondents recording their media consumption across the day; with media habits changing so rapidly it will be hard for Touchpoints to fully reflect current trends. It's only a dipstick, a moment in time.

Now the IPA and Touchpoints' sponsors need to make a full commitment to regularly updating the system so that it becomes a living tool that can really help move the industry towards integrated planning. And finally we will edge towards a true measurement of the value of what we do.

claire.beale@haynet.com.

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