Media Research: Be Careful What You Wish For

By The Cog Blog Archives
Cover image for  article: Media Research: Be Careful What You Wish For

There has been much "end of an era" talk in the U.K. this last week for obvious reasons. We also have a new Government which from early evidence seems to believe in ideological change-for-change's sake, whatever the evidence from the past.

Strangely, debunking history never goes out of fashion whatever the facts. ("Ah yes, but that time was different for all sorts of underlying reasons.") We are simply not good at absorbing lessons.

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We do what suits our agenda at the time, regardless. And so, to media measurement, via the death of a monarch and a change in Government.

This week asi, which for the last 30-plus years has put on the best audience measurement conference around, and which via their founder Mike Sainsbury have led the media measurement debate, issued the latest in their podcast series. This episode features Richard Marks, asi's research director, interviewing George Ivie, CEO of the Media Ratings Council in the U.S.

For those of you unfamiliar with the MRC's work, it is the body responsible for the setting of standards in audience measurement across all media types in the U.S. MRC accreditation is much sought after, and the organization is well known, influential and respected.

Richard's interview with George is well worth a listen.

At one stage George discusses the current topic of the day in the States, alternative currencies.

He makes the point that none of the pretenders to Nielsen's throne are yet to apply for MRC accreditation, although all are busy out selling their wares to the market. In other words, they are selling something that may or may not be found to be accurate, transparent and verifiable.

I would urge buyers or potential buyers of these services to apply caution.

George makes the point that he does not see the MRC having a global role, as defined by telling others how to run their measurement services. "Caution" is therefore about as far as I will go in commenting on a market where my own hands-on experience is almost 30 years old.

That said I would make the following points.

  • The JIC system which applies almost everywhere except the U.S. has brought stability to media measurement.
  • Once you step outside the JICs you enter a world of confusion, where vendors measure what they want and how they want, and if they don't like the results they obfuscate and change them (see Facebook's wobbling about audience data).
  • They can do this as their data is neither verified, nor examined.
  • If you have multiple currencies, you introduce a new dynamic into media trading. Instead of discussing what works, what doesn't, how to use the medium in question and what price to pay, instead you argue about the accuracy of the currency.
  • Advertisers certainly, and media agencies virtually certainly are ill-equipped for this debate. Why? Because someone else (the appropriate JIC) has taken care of the stability of the currency. The end user should be pleased he or she does not have to worry about it.

To those who make the point that in the U.S. any JIC would amount to a restraint on free-market trading and would thus be deemed to be illegal I would suggest you look to amend the law as it relates to media measurement.

It cannot be sensible to introduce inefficiencies, confusion and time-wasting within a market by hiding behind a law that I cannot imagine was ever created with this end in mind.

And to those in other markets looking on to learn as the U.S. -- hardly a beacon of leadership in media measurement over the years -- slides into organizational chaos, be careful what you wish for.

To learn more about this issue, and to have your say the asi International Audio and Video Measurement Conference takes place in Nice, France, November 2-4.

Disclosure: I will be chairing a session at the asi Conference.

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