A snide throwaway line has turned into a truism that these days demands attention: "Agencies always know what they want from media measurement … until someone asks them." Certainly, there's some truth in the idea that we are all very good at moaning on about this shortcoming or that failure but are rather less good at proposing pragmatic solutions.
This thought occurred to me when I read my old friend Bob Wootton's piece on Mediatel last week. Bob was kind enough to reference me and the campaign for a levy to fund true cross-media measurement that has featured several times in past Cog Blogs, most recently earlier this month.
He also made the point that recent asi events, which are all about audience measurement in video and audio, have moved on from being a talking shop to something more mainstream. As Bob put it: "(The asi events have) become much more than a talking shop for media researchers who don't normally venture out quite as much."
Media researchers do of course venture out a fair bit -- maybe a fairer accusation would be that when they do so they don't tend to mix with the "right" people, preferring their own kind.
Mind you, that's true of many tribes within the business. Does anyone else remember the days when TV buyers gathered in one pub, planners in another (or more likely in a wine bar)?
It's also true to say (as Richard Marks does in his comment below Bob's piece) that asi can hardly be accused of not making an effort to attract advertisers and their agencies. The fact is, this tribe thing runs deep and flows both ways (if bodies of water can be deep and flow both ways).
What's needed is for a greater degree of consultation and indeed collaboration. Audience researchers are intense, thoughtful people (by and large, stop giggling at the back). They are interested in doing things properly; they're less concerned with short-term headlines and more concerned with longer-term viability.
None of these are bad traits, in fact just the opposite. Someone has to ensure that things are done to the highest of standards after all.
But at the same time, life moves on. Inventing a cure for something that is no longer a threat isn't as helpful as coming up with a fix that works.
Or, being 90% right beats being 100% late.
Good luck to asi, and indeed to Mediatel (whose Future of Media event started Bob off on his article), for providing the forums (fora?) for debate.
The thing about debate is that all parties need to take part. If one party (say the media researchers) assumes primacy and isn't challenged then the answer risks being unfit for purpose, however technically smart.
And if the agencies and their clients don't consider this a subject worthy of serious debate then they can hardly complain if they don't like the outcome.
More inclusion, less tribalism. More "Here's a way through," less "Stop giving me the answer to the wrong question."
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