The media industry has been subject to massive disruptive influences in the last ten years and they seem set to continue. Any attempt to predict the future of the media and advertising ecosystem or the future of the research industry that supports it is likely to fail.
However, we can think about the underlying forces and influences at play and what are the likely outcomes of each, leading to scenarios which help us frame decision-making. Some possible future scenarios include:
1. New Media, New Metrics
Technology and platforms are evolving and will continue to evolve to allow audiences to extend media consumption throughout their day and find the best available screen. New kinds of research are needed to understand audience behaviour, attitudes and response in this new world.
In some cases, these new approaches require new scientific understanding, such as neuroscience, or rely on the development of measurement technology in line with new platforms as usage extends to 2, 3 or even 4 screens. In other cases, these new metrics reflect different and innovative applications of well established academic thinking or traditional research, such as behavioural economics, currently a hot topic in the UK.
Social media has also fundamentally changed the way that audiences communicate with each other and the way that brands can reach out to them.
Recent analysis by The Nielsen Company shows how viral media can inflate not only the reach of a campaign, but also the impact. Audiences trust recommendations from a friend more than any media communication. A recent study conducted jointly by Nielsen and Facebook showed how ‘friends’ becoming fans of a brand provides both organic reach and also significant shifts in brand awareness and consideration.
A recent review provided another illustration of how new metrics are needed to grasp the meaning of how new media impacts campaigns around the Super Bowl. In this review, Nielsen developed a blended media score to evaluate the performance of campaigns across paid and earned media, including audience response and viral impact. The chart below shows how some advertisers were better than others at ‘earning media’.
2. Less is More
An alternate view is that the proliferation of platforms and metrics only serve to confuse and make it harder for marketers and agencies to make allocation decisions. Whilst in some cases allocation and targeting can increasingly be automated, major advertisers are looking for simple approaches and metrics that can be applied consistently when they are comparing across platforms.
The demand for, and success of, UKOM illustrate this – the reality is that to understand and evaluate the internet in comparison with other media, advertisers required that an internet planning currency was established. This has now been adopted by more than 30 publishers and more than 30 of the UK’s leading agencies. UKOM is providing the UK online media industry with an opportunity to finally engage with the IPA TouchPoints survey and provide a valuable source of consistent evaluation.
In several examples, clients also seek to find consistent metrics across multiple markets and all media. They do desire a GRP that compares across 4 screens and across all markets. The following article, Integrated Measurement and the Pathway to Profitability, looks at one way of evaluating a cross-media GRP.
3. Response Data Complements Audience Ratings Data
One opportunity to unify advertising research across platforms is to focus on the impact on audience response, advertising recall, changes in behaviour and ultimately revenues.
Advertising is increasingly targeted and evaluated on the basis of which media contexts and creatives have been most successful in driving response metrics including propensity to buy. Services such as Nielsen IAG offer clients the opportunity to compare performance of TV advertising with online advertising.
The more granular the data, the more meaningful the evaluation, and this kind of evaluation, particularly on offline purchase, will rely on highly granular data in media and purchase behaviour. This type of analysis will help us better understand how & where the ‘new media ecology’ will eventually settle out to and how we should frame future resource allocation.
4. Privacy Prevails
The last scenario, and the one which offers the least opportunity, is the ongoing threat of increasingly stringent privacy legislation. This presents a more sobering prospect for the industry of increased restrictions on the flexibility of publishers, networks and also researchers to monitor and respond to the behaviour of the audience with increasingly targeted and relevant offerings.
Advertisers and publishers, as well as researchers, may lose out on the opportunity to generate more value for the industry by improving the efficiency of advertising. Providing consumers with a clear and valuable exchange (for instance, more relevant, salient advertising communication) for their disclosure will be a critical requirement for the industry.
The call to action for the media research industry here is to ensure that we take this issue seriously and self police effectively. Privacy remains paramount and the research industry must lead the field in ensuring we maintain high levels of security and anonymity in personal data handling.
Of course, it’s likely that elements of all of these trends will be evident in future market spaces. All provide a different set of challenges and opportunities for media, advertisers and researchers alike. One thing is certain, those that succeed in this future will be those that frame their decision-making through an awareness and understanding of these contrasting forces and influences at play.