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.

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  2. Or as Sir Henry Rawlinson said, “I don’t know what I want, but I want it now!”

  3. The one thing that is wanted least is change because if it happens (and it does occasionally)then valid comparisons with the past disappear and trends are blown out of the window. With them goes any ability to ‘prove’ to the client that buying is better than ever before and improvements are happening.
    Consistency is king when it comes to media measurement and consistency is the enemy of change. And so, of course, is spending more money to aid that change.

  4. Hi Brian. Far from being an easy target, establishing new metrics for today’s complex and real time media world (and how they link to a client’s brand and business KPIs) is a considerable nut to crack. The question posed by Media 360 was whether UK (media agency) preeminence was under threat from other markets. My point was rather than just other markets, a significant challenge to the position of UK media agencies was from the continued use of increasingly archaic media metrics. Because there’s a growing disconnect between the general UK media environment which continues to be one of world’s fast moving and digitally rich, and the way media agency performance generally continues to be measured using price inputs which haven’t changed since I was a trainee. With 50% of all search queries already from mobile devices (and with wearable devices this will soon increase to 80%+), the one thing Richard we want more is change. And in this rapidly changing (and exciting) “real time” world, change there will be. Thanks for picking up the story.

  5. Hi Colin (and Toby and Richard).
    I agree with Colin that this is not easy – and I also agree with him that change is coming. But if the agencies want to move the game on from price alone (and I’m not sure that everyone in agencies does want that) then, as I say in a later blog on procurement, they are going to have to demonstrate that ‘value’ can encompass ‘quality’ or some other metric. They are going to have to work with procurement specialists, auditors and the rest as opposed to taking a confrontational approach to those whose job it is to measure media agency output and performance.

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