ARF Reveals Its Plans for 2020

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With research, data, and insights commanding media attention today, an organization such as the Advertising Research Foundation ( ARF ) must help its membership understand and navigate the impact. The ARF is well prepared for this task. Its mission, according to Scott McDonald , chief executive officer and president, is “to further, through research, the scientific practice of advertising and marketing.”

The ARF recently revealed its plans for 2020, which includes strengthening “all of the industry C's – content, credibility, creativity, consumer, and community,” said Deborah Kim, director of sponsorship and business development. The meeting, held in its New York offices, showcased the full range of ARF's 2020 initiatives, including new and expanded ways of funding research projects, clarifying and prioritizing initiatives, and detailing upcoming projects, as well as revealing a full roster of upcoming events for 2020.

With 400 corporate members ranging from advertisers, agencies, media, and research companies, the expectation is that the ARF must be, “the standard bearer for unbiased quality in research,” stated Michael Heitner, executive vice president, member needs and value.

ARF's Focus for 2020

McDonald explained that, based on feedback from ARF's members, the focus in 2020 revolves around content: how it is consumed, tracked, measured, made more effective, and valued in the consumer journey.

One of the most important improvements from 2019 is the increased financial effort to support such an all-encompassing initiative. “We are here to help members make smarter decisions and to let us know how they want the funds to be allocated,” McDonald said. To that end, he established a member-driven agenda to drive thought leadership. Now, 10 percent of the larger corporate membership dues in 2020 will be committed to funding original research, up from 8 percent in 2019. In addition, smaller companies, once priced out of participation, can now also affordably contribute to the effort.

But how does one start to map out the priorities? “We asked what kept people up at night,” McDonald said. They uncovered the following seven areas of need:

Ø Leveraging data for insights

Ø Ad creative

Ø Media measurement

Ø Marketing measurement and ROI

Ø Future methods and the evolution of technology

Ø Teams, talent, training, and organization, including how to blend small and big data, and how to hire and train new talent

Ø Consumer science and the issues of privacy

Overseeing these priorities is a Leadership Committee, composed of a dozen member companies from across the media spectrum, from networks to brands to research firms. The committee “reflects the diversity of stakeholders in the ARF” and, McDonald said, “will have a direct hand in setting the research agenda.”

ARF Research Priorities for 2020

ARF's chief research officer, Paul Donato , will work with seven councils to help focus and drive the overall research agenda. Each council relates specifically to one of the ARF-identified seven areas of need. They include:

Ø Analytics – The emerging issues related to integrating and analyzing big data

Ø Cognition – How advertising works from both neurological and survey-based perspectives

Ø Creative – Tools for creative and research

Ø Cross-platform measurement – Supporting better cross-platform planning and MRC efforts

Ø Cultural effectiveness – Marketing strategies that effectively target diverse multicultural and generational groups

Ø LA Council/TV and Video Content – Better measurement to track viewers' changing video consumption; plus, promoting content and program resting

Ø Social – A guide for social metrics and a better understanding of measurement and effectiveness

ARF Outreach for 2020

But all of these efforts would have limited reach were it not for the many conferences, webinars, salons, and outreach efforts ARF uses to encourage participation, solicit feedback, and showcase their results.

The ARF offers a range of events throughout the year, including one of my favorites, AudiencexScience (April 19-21, 2020 in Jersey City). There are also more targeted conferences planned, including ShopperxScience, SportsMarketingxScience, OTTxScience, and DataxScience. The ARF also hosts content within other conferences, such as ARFatAWNY and SXSW .

The organization celebrates success, too, by awarding exceptional research and researchers with the Great Minds Awards, the Erwin Ephron Demystification Award, and the David Ogilvy Award. Kim noted that, in 2020, the ARF is introducing Ogilvy 360, a year-long effort to highlight the findings of the award winners with a Young Pros Event, ARF Salons, webcasts, regional events, and website case studies. “There are benefits of partnerships with the ARF,” Kim said, rattling off an extensive list:

· Raising the presence among influential thinkers

· Enabling members to differentiate themselves as a forward-thinking company

· Building trust by supporting an organization that is appreciated for unbiased quality

· Enforcing rigorous standards, methodology, and transparency

· Fostering connections and community

It looks like the ARF will be very busy in 2020!

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