‘They need to be accountable’

Marketers and buyers say sellers who don't measure ad effectiveness are driving dollars to those who do

Accountability.

This single word looms even larger over the media industry today than interactivity or convergence did a few years ago – mainly because it is impacting all aspects of the marketer’s business and, in turn, the agency’s.

Clients and agencies are making large investments in time and research tools to assess the effectiveness of advertising efforts, but they say the media sellers – particularly conventional television, where the majority of the money goes – aren’t doing their share.

On the other hand, clients and buyers say that The Radio Marketing Bureau, newspapers, their marketing groups and NADbank do a good job at providing information on how to best use their respective media.

Media that don’t take their accountability role seriously are driving advertisers to the media that do, says Bob Reaume, VP policy and research for the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA).

‘ROI and accountability must get better,’ he says. ‘Dollars will flow to those media that do have good metrics. Commercial audience measurement, return on investment, even good solid audience measurement and readership tools would help the accountability side of media spend.’

Mike Welling, VP brand development for Unilever Canada, has been vocal on the importance of accountability over the past couple of years. He’s made it well known that Unilever is prepared to move its ad dollars around – and has done so – based on effectiveness proven by vendor-supported research.

‘Necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s why you see the specialty TV folks being much more creative in making sure they can justify their proposition,’ says Welling. ‘Over time you’re seeing a drift towards specialty, which is why many major broadcasters are trying to expand their portfolios of [specialty] properties.’

With the recent rate hikes on conventional TV, Welling says: ‘It’s going to come down to certain advertisers making a decision about whether conventional TV is the most cost-effective way to reach their audience.’

Phil Donne, president of Campbell Soup Company of Canada, says broadcasters have to work harder to prove that commercials are actually seen, as well as conduct more research into commercial pod placement.

In addition, he says the gap between client, agency, and media should be narrowed through top-to-top meetings, so the media can better understand the clients’ needs. ‘Media sellers have to understand that, with pressures on ROI, you want to move your money to where you know you’re getting return. It would serve [broadcasters] well to start to work against providing that kind of information, demonstrating that they’re prepared to get involved.’

Jeff Marchand, GM of Starcom Worldwide in Toronto, believes that accountability should be shared between the agency and the media supplier.

‘When clients talk about accountability, I don’t think it’s about getting 100% index on a post-buy. Getting the ratings is great, but what we’re really buying from media suppliers is viewers, readers, listeners. They need to be accountable to whether we actually got the attention of our consumers.’

Marchand says rather than simply subscribing to Nielsen, PMB, and various syndicated studies, broadcasters should be finding out if television is effective at selling cars and toothpaste, showing advertisers that the medium works.

Broadcast measurement companies say they are willing to work with agencies, clients, and broadcasters on the commercial audience measurement part of the equation – but they have yet to be approached.

Jim MacLeod, president and CEO of BBM Canada, says this is a discussion that the broadcasters and buyers must have, and one that BBM could facilitate.

‘We’re quite willing to have that dialogue, but it changes the currency of the industry [from program to commercial measurement], and that’s something that needs to be thought about very carefully,’ he says. ‘Greater granularity is theoretically possible but I don’t know if it’s in anyone’s best interest. The smaller you slice [the data], the greater the margin of error unless you start increasing sample sizes.’

Kathy Gardner, VP integrated media research for CanWest Media Sales, says talk of commercial audience measurement is putting the cart before the horse. She believes that Canada continuing to support two audience measurement services is a fundamental problem.

‘CanWest is absolutely committed to providing advertisers with what they want, but we have to get some agreement on that basic fundamental. We’re prepared to settle it any way the advertisers and the industry want it, but you can’t be comparing how many people watch the third pod in the second cluster during 24 between BBM and Nielsen,’ she says.

As for research into better understanding its audiences, Gardner says CanWest uses all the syndicated studies, and then makes an additional investment in the form of BBM questions designed to get a better idea of what kind of consumer is watching a particular program.

Over at CTV, Rob Dilworth, VP research, uses Nielsen Media Research’s minute-by-minute data and its Spotwatch product to show advertisers commercial retention. He says the data shows that, on average, commercial audiences are lower than program audiences by about 5% or 6%.

But if advertisers only want to pay for the commercial audience, says Dilworth, it penalizes broadcasters for something they can’t control.

‘We can’t force people to watch their awful commercial. If people are really involved with the program, they tend to be really involved in the commercials – but only if the commercials are relevant and attractive. It kind of crosses the line as to what is our responsibility and what is the responsibility of the person creating the commercial.’