Media Man Slams Media Numbers Shock

‘Gottlieb slams arcane media metrics’ shouted the headline in ‘Campaign’ the other week (yes, this is a new blog and we’re playing catch up). For those of you who missed it, Colin Gottlieb of Omnicom Media Group was speaking at some media conference or other. True to form he was soon joined on this particular bandwagon by sundry other agency principals.

Employing the Question Time principle, Colin took aim at the easiest target out there. If he’d been a politician he would have slammed tax-avoiding corporations, or bankers and received a huge cheer. But he isn’t, he’s a media man and so he had a whack at media numbers.

Now I started my career as a media researcher (hard to tell, I know). I sat on numerous industry committees discussing how best to measure readership, or calculate TV ratings. A bundle of laughs it certainly wasn’t, I can tell you. As I was an agency representative I thought it appropriate, indeed responsible to ask my peers in other agencies what they wanted, what they thought. We had meetings about this, at the IPA. And I can tell you the response was a deafening silence. Apathy filled the room.

I coined a phrase I used in the days when I spoke on conference platforms. I’ve been looking for an excuse to resurrect it: “Media agencies know exactly what they want from media research until you ask them.”  I was rather proud of it at the time.

The fact is agencies don’t know; but they do know they don’t want what they’ve got.

Oddly, the same week that Colin stunned the media world by attacking the media numbers his staff use every day I attended a presentation by Ipsos of the latest European Media Survey. This was held at The British Museum (insert your own joke here) and a most hospitable occasion it turned out to be.

After the results had been presented – rather sweetly Ipsos aren’t allowed by the sponsoring media owners to comment on trends by publisher, so they just put the charts up in silence – a panel of ‘industry experts’ were quizzed by the Ipsos presenter. Two from GroupM, one from Zenith; one systems guy, two researchers, no planners (who might be expected to use this sort of data).
Everyone seemed to introduce any remark with ‘what our planners need is…’. If the planners are so opinionated about the intricacies of the EMS – which I very much doubt, then why didn’t any of them turn up and express their opinions?

I came away thinking that it was rather depressing that the media research world hasn’t moved along much since…well since ever. Ipsos just asks the questions so you can’t entirely blame them.

Sadly no-one from Colin’s agency was on-hand to show the industry the way ahead.