News & Opinion

No trade body is an island

Writing for Mediatel, Newsworks' insight director Denise Turner responds to Dominic Mills' view that meta research is "quick and dirty". 

I've written before about how much I enjoy Dominic Mills' 'Mills on Monday'. Dominic always tells it like it is and brings a new and fresh perspective to the issues of the day. Last week, Dominic created an adland inflation basket. A lot of what he deemed to be out and in, I completely agree with. I was, however, intrigued by his view that original research by media owners and trade bodies will be out this year, replaced by meta research which he terms "quick and dirty". 

In my opinion that is too binary a view – not least because meta research can often be as time consuming, if not more so, than original research. To be fair to Dominic, he did compliment a lot of the work that is carried out by the UK trade bodies, and in particular the way that we all create research which expands understanding and focuses on the bigger picture.

This echoes one of Brian Jacob's recent Cog Blog posts 'Trade bodies rule'.  Brian was also discussing the work of UK marketing trade bodies (including our good selves) which is "driving the research agenda by doing fascinating work that advances thought and drives (or should drive) action".

Dominic and Brian's comments coincide with the approach of my third anniversary at Newsworks, after 24 years on the agency side, both full-service and media. And as is my wont, I have been reflecting on how it feels to be on the 'other side'...

Not one size fits all

No measurement solution will offer all the answers. I am a great believer in the concept of triangulation, which is coming at the question from different angles. Often that will involve a mix of original research, meta-analysis, desk research and often a combination of all three.

Some of the most commented on – and well-received – pieces of work from trade bodies in the last year have been combinations. 'Profit Ability', conducted by Ebiquity for Thinkbox, was a piece of meta-analysis; Enders Analysis' assessment of short-termism, sponsored by Magnetic, was a mix of desk research and interviews; and Radiocentre's 'Re-evaluating Media' was desk research, additional analysis and interviews. At Newsworks we have won awards for projects that involve both original research and meta-analysis.

Newsworks, along with the other trade bodies will continue to commission research of all types so that we keep on advancing knowledge, and answering the questions that advertisers and agencies are asking. 

Look under the bonnet

This may seem an obvious statement, but it is more vital than ever to be aware that no data or dataset can give you all the answers. It is vital to understand the limitations as well as the opportunities of the data being analysed and presented. I think the complexity of media today, and the resulting busyness of media people, means that is done much less than it should.

One of those limitations is the measurement of online display. I've written before of my frustration that it is treated as one amorphous mass, that in data collection and measurement often no effort is made to separate it out into its component parts.

While all media are digital these days and established media are available in online forms, I believe this lack of separation causes the biggest issue for newsbrands. Readership of newsbrands is growing, and a lot of that is digital. So if we can’t measure the impact of advertising across all platforms then we are underestimating the true power of newsbrands. 

This is why we have been working with Peter Field over the last few years, commissioning him to carry out bespoke analysis of the IPA Databank for us. Luckily, the IPA Databank does separate out digital newsbrands as a channel – but only since 2012.  This means that long runs of data will work for other channels, but not for newsbrands.

Our work complements the work done by Peter, along with Les Binet, for the IPA, sponsored by Thinkbox and Google – 'Media in Focus'. This showed very clearly that established media are becoming more effective over time. Peter's work for us added to that knowledge with more detailed analysis of the data to get under the skin of multi-platform newsbrands, in order to properly reflect their effectiveness. 

Similarly, recent work from Thinkbox ('Profit Ability') and the Radiocentre ('Re-evaluating Media'), showed that established media are incredibly effective and that print is an important channel for effectiveness. These studies advance our learning enormously and I applaud my fellow trade bodies for great work. 

My goal is to add to that body of evidence by producing work that complements it. I want to take the great learnings for print effectiveness, revealed by these studies, and see if we can separate out digital newsbrands from online display. Which is why we have been working on a large scale effectiveness project with GroupM to prove the value of the quality environment – interestingly this has to be original research as existing datasets were insufficient to measure digital newsbrands. And it's also why we are launching a new effectiveness study in May – this time a meta-analysis of Benchmarketing's dataset which allows us to look at the effect of both print and digital newsbrands on overall campaign performance.

No trade body or media owner project is an island (just as no medium is an island working in isolation); stories and themes are built from a number of studies pointing in the same direction. As trade bodies, we know that all of our research plays an important role. The comments from Dominic and Brian reflect the fact that we have more in common now than ever before. So, reflecting on my first three years at Newsworks, I am proud that our research is being seen as advancing media knowledge, while still promoting the fantastic power of newsbrands.

First published by Mediatel

No trade body or media owner project is an island (just as no medium is an island working in isolation); stories and themes are built from a number of studies pointing in the same direction.

Denise Turner, insight director, Newsworks
by Denise Turner 05/04/18

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