Advertisers and a Levy

There was no Cog Blog last week as I was attending some of the annual asi audience measurement spectacular and trying (to coin a phrase) to make sense of it all. For me, the most significant moment came not from research agencies, nor consultants, nor adtech suppliers but from advertisers.

In particular, a remark from Phil Smith, Director General of ISBA, the UK advertiser trade body that there is growing support amongst his members for a levy to fund cross-media measurement.

The timing was appropriate as it was two years ago at the Prague asi meeting that I proposed a levy on adspend to fund this aspect of media measurement. I drew a comparison with the UK’s ASBOF levy that pays for our self-regulatory system and is now well embedded within the industry.

Phil was kind enough to acknowledge that this initiative started from the platform in Prague. Subsequent Cog Blog posts have tried to advance the levy idea.

A levy of course isn’t as simple as all that. First, it’s voluntary and so the benefits it delivers need to be recognised and sold.

Second it needs a cap to stop the largest advertisers paying disproportionately large amounts in the event that a proportion of smaller advertisers choose to pay nothing.

Third it would be wrong to see this as some way of replacing the established funding models used successfully for many years within the JIC mechanism.

This last point needs to be made very clear.

The JIC system has served the industry well for many decades. It is though about intra-media measurement, which spot to buy, how many OOH sites are needed, which radio networks are attracting what audience.

The JICs are about a currency – they’re a basis for trading. Their use in planning is tactical (which mix of stations etc).

They are ill-suited and always have been for strategic planning. They are nothing to do with inter-media comparisons.

Comparisons between media forms are not what the JICs are there for – for one simple reason: the JICs are primarily funded by the vendors, and anything that threatens their ad revenues is naturally of no interest.

The problem is that any initiative seen, even mistakenly as a threat to the JICs is threatened by the inevitable howls of protest.

We seem incapable of encouraging any new approach without assuming that the new must by default be there to trash the established.

True cross-media measurement helps optimise planning. The very concept aims to address a question the JICs were never designed to answer.

Talk of cross-media measures lead inevitably to the IPA’s Touchpoints. A fine idea, albeit a snapshot, that seems always to struggle for funding. Agencies traditionally hate paying anything for audience measurement and so after the initial enthusiasm burned off the burden has fallen – again – on the vendors.

But any new structure shouldn’t discard Touchpoints, or indeed TGI rather it should seek to weave what’s out there into a new and improved measurement framework. The new doesn’t have to trash the old.

It’s advertisers who benefit from the better plans that emerge from being able to explore the impact of cross-media campaigns, to quantify the role that PR, or experiential, or in-store plays alongside advertising. And as the main beneficiary, advertisers should pay, as the WFA, ISBA and the ANA acknowledge.

ISBA’s Project Origin is a start – it’s not (yet) about true cross-media. In truth it’s tackling cross-platform video.

But let’s remember the answer to the old question, how do you eat an elephant? One small bite at a time.

A cross-media service meets a long-time need. It makes sense to look for a way of spreading the funding load. Hence the levy.

The great thing about a levy is that it soon becomes part of life.

The UK’s ASBOF levy dates back to 1975. Not everyone pays it, but the massive benefits of self-regulation are never challenged by the industry (maybe by politicians, but not by the industry).

Levies become a part of the landscape. Plans account for them, invoices include them and pretty soon most accept them.

Once there, they can be used to underpin future work, to drive new and exciting developmental research into improving how we plan communication.

They move us forward, step by step along a new path funded by those who stand to benefit.

Specialists often do what they do because it’s what they’ve always done. Advertisers’ involvement is a positive, a levy system is not a threat to the old comfortable order of doing things, but a huge opportunity.

Sweating the small stuff as the caravan moves on is not the way.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *