New prez looks to reinforce BBM’s turf

Jim MacLeod had a tough act to follow when he took over as president and CEO of BBM Bureau of Measurement last month. His predecessor, Owen Charlebois, had taken the tripartite industry organization from paper, radio and TV diaries into people...

Jim MacLeod had a tough act to follow when he took over as president and CEO of BBM Bureau of Measurement last month. His predecessor, Owen Charlebois, had taken the tripartite industry organization from paper, radio and TV diaries into people meters and most recently Internet measurement with Media Metrix.

But MacLeod is equal to the task – having paid his dues in executive positions with radio groups throughout Canada, most recently as senior vice-president of Telemedia Radio. He also has his own aggressive agenda for BBM, one that solidifies its leadership role in the industry by tackling some important issues arising from the convergence of media.

One of these is the requirement for a single-source research or data fusion initiative. In an ideal world, single source means research for all media usage would come from a single national household panel. Fusion links research from several sources into one report that shows media habits across all platforms, cross-tabbed with demographic and product purchase and usage information.

‘BBM has to represent our industry and until the last 12 to 18 months our industry was broadcast-based. Well, it isn’t anymore. Companies have branched off into specialty TV, Internet, daily print, magazines and outdoor. It’s a very different landscape and we have to move quickly to reflect that landscape,’ says MacLeod.

‘We don’t want to start reinventing the wheel but BBM is uniquely positioned [with our measurement of radio, TV and Internet] to take a leadership role because there’s a knowledge and cost barrier to get into broadcast measurement.’

While BBM already has the infrastructure, experience and processes in place to handle three facets of multi-platform measurement, the real challenge will be to get other industry and measurement organization onboard to develop a system to fuse with its magazine, newspaper and, possibly, outdoor data, into one comprehensive report.

MacLeod says, ‘We’ve got to talk to all the other players, like NADbank and PMB, and to our members and ask – where does this go? You don’t want to measure for the sake of measuring, it’s got be useful and reflect industry needs. I’m committed to moving ahead very quickly.’

MacLeod has picked up the single source gauntlet thrown down by John Cassaday, president and CEO of Corus Entertainment, during his speech to BBM’s Staying Tuned Conference in mid-February.

Cassaday says independent research and subscription research isn’t good enough anymore and that research should change to reflect industry changes. ‘We’ve got to start providing evidence that combining various media is going to have an impact on purchase intent and more effectively reach customers,’ Cassaday says.

‘Intuitively, I could conclude that a buy on YTV, our Energy Radio network and our Web site is going to be a more effective way of reaching teens than a simple network TV buy. But we’ve gone beyond the point where intuition is enough. We have to start providing real data to support these hypotheses. This is going to require a concerted approach on behalf of the industry to break down the silos that exist in terms of the research we do independently.’

MacLeod’s second priority, the introduction of Arbitron Company’s portable people meter (PPM) would go a long way to help facilitate single source or fused measurement database.

The pager-sized meter measures radio listening and television viewing both within and outside the home. It is passive. Research participants don’t have to push buttons or fill out diaries, they just have to carry the PPM all day and then put it in its charger/docking station at bedtime. That sends the data to the research company and recharges the meter. The PPM’s battery life is more than 28 hours.

The PPM has been tested extensively in Britain and is currently being tested in Philadelphia. It will be in 2,500 homes this summer and then roll out to a full commercial panel of 6,000. Arbitron’s plan is to have it in 100 top US markets by the end of the decade.

BBM has exclusive Canadian rights to the PPM and MacLeod says that if all goes well in Philadelphia, BBM will have PPMs in the field in about 18 months at least on a serious test basis.

‘Our view is and always has been that we want to meter as many markets as we can, where it is economically sustainable to do,’ says MacLeod. ‘That’s where I have the big hope for PPM. It’s going to get the cost down.’

As for the long-running people- meter war between BBM and Nielsen Media Research, MacLeod’s own view is that competition is good. He isn’t sure whether either one of Canada’s measurement companies would have as many meters installed if there wasn’t competition.

In the end, he says, the broadcasters and agencies will decide the winner. Meanwhile, Nielsen Media’s patent infringement suit against BBM is making its way through the courts. Nielsen Media received the Canadian patent on its Active-Passive audience measurement system last November and in December launched a patent infringement suit against BBM.

Nielsen Media’s patented system employs both pattern recognition – sometimes referred to as ‘picture matching’ -and code detection. Nielsen Media is claiming that alterations BBM has made to its meter system constitute an infringement on its patent.

MacLeod says it’s not really as simple as it sounds. BBM is on good ground and doesn’t believe there is infringement. He stresses that BBM’s picture-matching technology is solid and there is no threat to the measurement system whatsoever.

‘There seems to be an issue out there that the basic meter service is under challenge. It is not. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of what we do does not depend on what Nielsen has launched the action for.’

Along with the new initiatives, BBM has some other long-standing projects in the works, including the installation of its national people-meter panel that is committed to being up and running at the first of September.

The national panel should help fulfill a long-standing requirement of advertisers and agencies to monitor more Canadian markets. While major centres such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal received top priority when it came to meter installation, media buyers felt they were getting an incomplete picture without similar data from across Canada. BBM launched its meter services with 500 homes in Vancouver in September 1998. Since then it has added homes in Toronto and in other Ontario and Quebec centres. A total of 750 homes in Ontario, 480 in Quebec and a representational sample of 380 homes in the balance of Canada will be producing data this fall.

On the radio side is The Blue Sky Initiative – full-blown assessment of how radio measurement is handled and whether a more continuous measurement system rather than seasonal paper diaries should be introduced.

In addition, radio’s RTS (Return-to-Sample) product continues to be rolled out. This is a database of consumer behavior garnered from follow-up questionnaires to radio diary panel members. The results of the national study will be available in late May.

According to BBM, Radio RTS is the largest consumer information study in Canada and will be expanded to about 40,000 respondents by fall. The study examines usage of all media as well as lifestyle and psycho-graphic information, product usage, shopping and purchasing behavior.