Media Research Industry Transforms to Forward-Looking Models and Strategic Focus

By The Myers Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Media Research Industry Transforms to Forward-Looking Models and Strategic Focus

JackMyers.com today hosts 150 industry executives at a JackMyers Future of Media and Advertising Breakfast, featuring panelists Albie Hecht, Sarah Fay, Dina Kaplan, Jack Haber and Shane Steele. The event is sponsored by Teletrax, Vibrant Media, FreeWheel, DGA Search and Incognito Digital. For invitations to future events, register at JackMyers.com.

Rather than being locked into the forced mentality of peering backwards through data at past media, ad and sales performance, the media research industry is for the first time actively looking forward. Research is rapidly evolving as a tool for practical forecasting and proactive recommendations, rather than simply as currency for measuring if audience estimates and delivery guarantees achieved their promised goals. This is a radical change and its impact should not be underestimated.

Research executives admit they are struggling to simply stay current on the state-of-the-art, but JackMyers Media Business Report, through a series of exclusive interviews with industry leaders, has noted a new undercurrent of enthusiasm for emerging forms of measurement and an optimistic perspective on the future of media research. Our full 25-page report, GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Research Industry Looks Toward New Era in Media Measurementis available at www.myersreport.com. The report was underwritten by Teletrax, a six-year-old company that has established itself as a leader in using digital watermarking technology for the tracking of TV advertising and programming promotion.

There has been an explosion of media measurement offerings from multiple vendors in recent months, with more to come this year… and next… and next. Although Nielsen, which recently acquired advertising-recall research firm IAGfor $225 million, appears to be in firm control of the television and digital media research marketplace, several emerging companies are offering marketers and media sellers a spectrum of alternative approaches to valuing advertising exposure, tracking content distribution and gaining insights on audience engagement. While none of these methodologies threaten Nielsen's overwhelming dominance as a transactional currency, the media, advertising and entertainment communities are actively testing and embracing new research suppliers.

In a research community that, just a few years ago, would have described itself as conservative and slow to embrace change, a new mantra of industry thought leadership and even vision has been emerging. Led by a newly invigorated Advertising Research Foundation and empowered by the global expansion of digital technologies, corporate research budgets are inflating and research executives are being turned to for strategic insight and guidance. Research departments are evolving into corporate control centers that process myriad forms of intelligence from multiple data sources and convert that data into strategic and tactical knowledge for decision-making.

For years, marketing and media research departments have been decimated by staffing and budget cuts; research has been relegated to the back room, providing the most basic feedback for media and advertising decisions. Today, marketers, media sellers, agencies and content developers find themselves with a wealth of new tools, technologies, systems and techniques that provide reams of useful data generated by digital signals from set-top boxes, DVRs and the Internet. Media and marketing analytics that estimate the contribution of different media options to actual marketplace results have laid the foundation for an emerging group of research companies that use technology to actually connect media consumption patterns to consumer purchase behavior at the individual level.

Ironically, since digital technologies are a primary driving force behind these companies, most of the innovative work is in the television industry while online research remains primarily focused on measurement of impressions and "clicks." As marketers integrate more campaigns across multiple distribution platforms, they will not only require more sophisticated content tracking techniques, but will demand common measurement tools.

Innovative research initiatives are being developed across the media landscape, in print media, out-of-home, radio, mobile, cinema, and through custom research work of individual media companies, trade associations, agencies and marketers. In the out-of-home medium, the Traffic Audit Bureau will unveil its multi-million dollar "Eyes-On" research in late 2008, promising to deliver sophisticated traffic and demographic data to outdoor and digital out-of-home advertisers. With digital displays expanding exponentially across the landscape, many of the research models being developed for television and online advertisers will be relevant for OOH measurement as well.

The magazine industry, spearheaded by the Magazine Publishers of America, is investing heavily in engagement research to prove the value of that medium and validate the relevance of magazine brand equity in a cluttered media landscape. Magazines are also investing extensively in website development and are extending their brands to online, video and mobile content. As they adopt the emerging measurement tools for their digital properties, it will be more natural to extend these same tools, when possible, to their print assets. The online industry has incorporated sophisticated behavioral and contextual tracking methodologies into its ad serving processes, enabling media companies and marketers to address banner display ads to audiences pre-qualified based on their past online usage. Although still primarily a tool for more targeted audience aggregation, the behavioral and contextual techniques being used by the online industry will inevitably be incorporated into video advertising and will eventually be a standard criterion for other digital ad placements.

While ad buyers and marketers complain they are not yet close enough to the "Holy Grail" of marketing communications -- direct sales data correlated to ad messaging through a single source methodology -- the industry is clearly actively engaged in advancing toward that goal. "There's a massive drive to have data that's actionable and have confidence in the data," notes Andy Nobbs, president of Teletrax. "There's always been a struggle for the industry in trying to achieve that precision." There has also always been a frustration that such precision was an impossible dream, and that frustration permeated a community of researchers who often met to discuss the future, but who were rarely able to take meaningful action toward embracing it.

Research vendors and their clients continue to grapple with correlating raw data to survey and panel methodologies, and to weave audience measurements across platforms into a holistic campaign. Even second-by-second data gathered digitally from a census of hundreds of thousands or even millions of television viewers can't necessarily help discern how persuasive ads are, especially in brand-building campaigns launched over months or even years. But clearly, the media and advertising research industry:

· has catapulted itself into the digital age,

· is proactively exploring myriad new research models for both traditional and new media,

· is empowering marketers to test a seemingly limitless array of media opportunities,

· is enabling content owners to track intellectual property across an expanding universe of distribution options,

· and is generating honest hope that John Wanamaker's infamous criticism of advertising ("Only half my advertising works, but I don't know which half!") will finally and forever be put to rest.

Myers Publishing’s full 25-page report, GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Research Industry Looks Toward New Era in Media Measurementis available at no cost at www.myersreport.com. The report was underwritten by Teletrax.

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