Here's the Scoop on the ARF's Annual Conference

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The ARF’s annual conference next week will herald not only the arrival of new President and CEO Dr. Scott McDonald but also highlight the continuation and enhancement of three major initiatives on mobile advertising research and the impact of advertising pod context.

New Leadership

Scott McDonald has held senior research positions at Time Inc., Time Warner and Conde Nast, working closely with all five of the ARF's constituent groups -- media, advertisers, agencies, research companies and ad tech. In a meeting with the press this past week, he explained that he comes to the ARF at “a critically important time for the media industry, partly because technological change has introduced at least a doubling of the number of consumer touchpoints available to marketers, many of which don’t involve media at all.  This has fundamentally changed how we think of ‘audience’ and has made the term more ambiguous and confusing than it was 10 years ago.”

He sees the ARF as focused on a range of issues, from “methods for message development and understanding the consumer to highly technical problems of cross platform measurement, advertising effectiveness attribution and ways of integrating big data. These technical topics are very wonky but consume us because they remain unresolved problems for the industry.”

We are entering a complicated world where there are many challenges to the ad-supported media business model.  “Going into the Internet of Things, you are going to have more and more marketing opportunities to connect with consumers in conditions that are devoid of media like on the Fitbit, driving in your car, etc.,” McDonald noted. “The nature of advertising is changing in response to changes in technology and consumer behavior. Getting a clear view of consumer behavior and advertising impact has never been more important, more difficult or more complex.”

ARF Research Initiatives

As the industry gets more complicated, it is a great time for research. The ARF is continuing on some major research initiatives as well as introducing new ground-breaking work from member companies and suppliers. “One of the studies that will be talked about at the annual meeting  is an effort by the ARF Research team, in collaboration with several of the member companies, to try to quantify the value of specific media context,” McDonald said.  “How is the performance of an ad affected -- for better or worse -- by its media environment?  How is it affected by the other ads around it?”

Jasper Snyder, Executive Vice President Research and Innovation at the ARF outlined the continuation of three major research initiatives by noting that, “We have studies on creating effective mobile advertising, optimizing mobile research quality through the impact of emojis in mobile surveys and exploring the ROI impact of different types of context effects.” Previous How Advertising Works studies by the ARF have focused on the ROI of cross-platform advertising, and using neuroscience to understand how brands are built in the brain. “These studies not only quantified the impact of cross-platform advertising for the first time but also established, through neuroscience, the ways in which advertisers can optimize creative to take advantage of cross-platform effects," he continued.

“Biometric and neuroscience measurement has proven that optimizing creative to a specific platform provides a great opportunity to boost ad effectiveness,” noted Dr. Manuel Garcia-Garcia, the ARF’s Senior Vice President, Research and Innovation. “The challenge we face now is how to improve mobile ad creative so they are perceives as valuable and non-disruptive by the users.”

“One of the jobs of the ARF is to lead with quality research that is pivotal to the industry,” concluded McDonald. “Not only in providing quality research but also trying to provide conceptual clarity that makes it easier for all participants -- media companies, ad agencies, advertisers and research companies -- to be clear about where they are operating and which questions are being addressed.”

The ARF conference will be held March 20 and 21 at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City.

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